Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2002 May 7
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Smog Over New York
Credit: STS-92 Crew, NASA

Explanation: What is not pretty about the above picture? In a word: smog. In 2000 October the orbiting Space Shuttle Discovery photographed upstate New York just at sunset. Visible is golden sunlight reflecting from two of the Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario), and several of the Finger Lakes. Between the clouds at the top and ground at the bottom, however, is a trapped layer of smog. Smog is mostly ozone but may contain small amounts of volatile organic compounds. As opposed to "good smog" in the upper atmosphere, "bad smog" near the ground is created mostly by humans. In the upper atmosphere, ozone reflects back harmful ultraviolet radiation, but when it occurs near the ground, it can be inhaled. Smog continues to be studied with an eye for how it develops and how it affects human health.

Tomorrow's picture: On the Sun's Surface

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.