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 24
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Love and War by Moonlight
Credit & Copyright: Fred Espenak (courtesy of

Explanation: Venus, named for the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the war god's namesake, approach each other by moonlight in this lovely sky view recorded on May 14th from Dunkirk, Maryland, USA. The four second time exposure made in twilight with a digital camera also records earthshine illuminating the otherwise dark surface of the young crescent Moon. Venus shines as the third brightest object in Earth's sky, after the Sun and the Moon itself, and has been appearing as the brilliant evening star in the pantheon of planets arrayed in the west during April and May. Here, Venus' light is so intense that it produces a noticeable spike in the sensitive camera's image. Much fainter Mars is lower in the picture, caught between tree limbs swaying in a gentle evening breeze. By early June, Mars will be harder to spot as it wanders toward the horizon, but Venus and father Jupiter will draw closer together, presenting a spectacular pair of bright planets in the west.

Tomorrow's picture: a string of pearls

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.