Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. provided by NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU).
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🌌Webb's Southern Ring Nebula Cataloged as NGC 3132 the Southern Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula, the death shroud of a dying sun-like star some 2,500 light-years from Earth. Composed of gas and dust the stunning cosmic landscape is nearly half a light-year in diameter, explored in unprecedented detail by the James Webb Space Telescope. In this NIRCam image the bright star near center is a comp ...
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🌌Webb's First Deep Field This is the deepest, sharpest infrared image of the cosmos so far. The view of the early Universe toward the southern constellation Volans was achieved in 12.5 hours of exposure with the NIRCam instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. Of course the stars with six visible spikes are well within our own Milky Way. That diffraction pattern is characteristic of Webb's 1 ...
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© Bertrand Kulik

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🌌Noctilucent Clouds over Paris It's northern noctilucent cloud season. Composed of small ice crystals forming only during specific conditions in the upper atmosphere, noctilucent clouds may become visible at sunset during late summer when illuminated by sunlight from below. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds known and now established to be polar mesospheric clouds observed from the ground ...
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© Jordi Coy

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🌌Andromeda over the Sahara Desert What is the oldest thing you can see? At 2.5 million light years distant, the answer for the unaided eye is the Andromeda galaxy, because its photons are 2.5 million years old when they reach you. Most other apparent denizens of the night sky -- stars, clusters, and nebulae -- appear as they were only a few hundred to a few thousand years ago, as they lie well w ...
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© Raul Villaverde

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🌌In the Center of the Cat's Eye Nebula Three thousand light-years away, a dying star throws off shells of glowing gas. This image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543), to be one of the most complex planetary nebulae known. Spanning half a light-year, the features seen in the Cat's Eye are so complex that astronomers suspect the bright central object may actuall ...
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© Tom Glenn

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🌌Saturn and the ISS Soaring high in skies around planet Earth, bright planet Saturn was a star of June's morning planet parade. But very briefly on June 24 it posed with a bright object in low Earth orbit, the International Space Station. On that date from a school parking lot in Temecula, California the ringed-planet and International Space Station were both caught in this single high-speed vid ...
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© Marcella Giulia Pace

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🌌Roots on a Rotating Planet With roots on a rotating planet, an old tree is centered in this sequence of 137 exposures each 20 seconds long, recorded one night from northern Sicily. Digital camera and fisheye lens were fixed to a tripod to capture the dramatic timelapse, so the stars trailed through the region's dark sky. Of course that makes it easy to spot the planet's north celestial pole. Th ...
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© Giorgio Ferrari

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🌌The NGC 6914 Complex A study in contrasts, this colorful skyscape features stars, dust, and glowing gas in the vicinity of NGC 6914. The interstellar complex of nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Obscuring interstellar dust clouds appear in silhouette while reddish hydrogen emission nebulae, along ...
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🌌Milky Way Motion in 3D from Gaia Our sky is alive with the streams of stars. The motions of 26 million Milky Way stars are evident in the featured map constructed from recent data taken by ESA's Gaia satellite. Stars colored blue are moving toward us, while red indicates away. Lines depict the motion of the stars across the sky. The large blue on the left and red areas on the map's right give t ...
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🌌A Molten Galaxy Einstein Ring It is difficult to hide a galaxy behind a cluster of galaxies. The closer cluster's gravity will act like a huge lens, pulling images of the distant galaxy around the sides and greatly distorting them. This is just the case observed in the featured image recently re-processed image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The cluster GAL-CLUS-022058c is composed of many ga ...
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© Lorenzo Busilacchi

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🌌Strawberry Supermoon Over Devil's Saddle Near the horizon the full moon often seems to loom large, swollen in appearance by the famous Moon illusion. But time-lapse image sequences demonstrate that the Moon's angular size doesn't really change as it rises or sets. Its color does, though. Recording a frame about every 60 seconds, this image also shows how red the Sun can look while low on the ho ...
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🌌Phobos: Doomed Moon of Mars This moon is doomed. Mars, the red planet named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whose names are derived from the Greek for Fear and Panic. These martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of our Solar System. The larger moon, Pho ...
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© Pinholove

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🌌Solargraphic Analemmas For the northern hemisphere June 21 was the summer solstice, the Sun reaching its northernmost declination for the year. That would put it at the top of each of these three figure-8 curves, or analemmas, as it passed through the daytime sky over the village of Proboszczow, Poland. No sequence of digital exposures was used to construct the remarkable image though. Using a ...
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© Zheng Zhi

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🌌The Solar System's Planet Trails Stars trail through a clear morning sky in this postcard from a rotating planet. The timelapse image is constructed from consecutive exposures made over nearly three hours with a camera fixed to a tripod beside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on June 24. Arcing above the eastern horizon after the series of exposures began, a waning crescent Moon left the br ...
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© Jose J. Chambo

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🌌Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) Imaged on June 20 2022, comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) shares this wide telescopic field of view with open star cluster IC 4665 and bright star Beta Ophiuchi, near a starry edge of the Milky Way. On its maiden voyage to the inner Solar System from the dim and distant Oort cloud, this comet PanSTARRS was initially spotted over five years ago, in May 2017. Then it was the ...
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© Alexis Trigo

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🌌Solar System Family Portrait Yes, but have you ever seen all of the planets at once? A rare roll-call of planets has been occurring in the morning sky for much of June. The featured fisheye all-sky image, taken a few mornings ago near the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, caught not only the entire planet parade, but the Moon between Mars and Venus. In order, left to right along the eclipt ...
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🌌Mercury from Passing BepiColombo Which part of the Moon is this? No part -- because this is the planet Mercury. Mercury's old surface is heavily cratered like that of Earth's Moon. Mercury, while only slightly larger than Luna, is much denser and more massive than any Solar System moon because it is made mostly of iron. In fact, our Earth is the only planet more dense. Because Mercury rotates e ...
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© Wang Jin

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🌌The Gum Nebula over Snowy Mountains The Gum Nebula is so large and close it is actually hard to see. This interstellar expanse of glowing hydrogen gas frequently evades notice because it spans 35 degrees -- over 70 full Moons -- while much of it is quite dim. This featured spectacular 90-degree wide mosaic, however, was designed to be both wide and deep enough to bring up the Gum -- visible in ...
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🌌Light Echoes from V838 Mon What caused this outburst of V838 Mon? For reasons unknown, star V838 Mon's outer surface suddenly greatly expanded with the result that it became one of the brighter stars in the Milky Way Galaxy in early 2002. Then, just as suddenly, it shrunk and faded. A stellar flash like this had never been seen before -- supernovas and novas expel matter out into space. Althoug ...
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© Gruppo Astrofili Palidoro

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🌌Planets of the Solar System Simultaneous images from four cameras were combined to construct this atmospheric predawn skyscape. The cooperative astro-panorama captures all the planets of the Solar System, just before sunrise on June 24. That foggy morning found innermost planet Mercury close to the horizon but just visible against the twilight, below and left of brilliant Venus. Along with the ...
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© Martin Wise

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🌌Filaprom on the Western Limb A solar filament is an enormous stream of incandescent plasma suspended above the active surface of the Sun by looping magnetic fields. Seen against the solar disk it looks dark only because it's a little cooler, and so slightly dimmer, than the solar photosphere. Suspended above the solar limb the same structure looks bright when viewed against the blackness of spa ...
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© Basudeb Chakrabarti

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🌌Spiral Galaxy NGC 6744 Beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 6744 is nearly 175,000 light-years across, larger than our own Milky Way. It lies some 30 million light-years distant in the southern constellation Pavo but appears as only a faint, extended object in small telescopes. We see the disk of the nearby island universe tilted towards our line of sight in this remarkably detailed galaxy portrait, a t ...
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© Craig Stocks

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🌌Supernova Remnant: The Veil Nebula Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light would have suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was from a supernova, or exploding star, and record the expanding debris cloud as the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant. Imaged with color filters featuring light emitted by sulfu ...
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© Meiying Lee

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🌌Analemma over Taipei Does the Sun return to the same spot on the sky every day? No. A better and more visual answer to that question is an analemma, a composite of images taken at the same time and from the same place over the course of a year. The featured analemma was compiled at 4:30 pm many afternoons from Taiwan during 2021, with the city skyline of Taipei in the foreground, including tall ...
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🌌Rock Fingers on Mars There, just right of center, what is that? The surface of Mars keeps revealing new surprises with the recent discovery of finger-like rock spires. The small nearly-vertical rock outcrops were imaged last month by the robotic Curiosity rover on Mars. Although similar in size and shape to small snakes, the leading explanation for their origin is as conglomerations of small mi ...
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🌌Game: Super Planet Crash Can you create a planetary system that lasts for 1000 years? Super Planet Crash, the featured game, allows you to try. To create up to ten planets, just click anywhere near the central star. Planet types can be selected on the left in order of increasing mass: Earth, Super-Earth, Ice giant, Giant planet, Brown dwarf, or Dwarf star. Each planet is gravitationally attract ...