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 December 3

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Eclipse Over Acacia
Credit & Copyright: Fred Espenak

Explanation: On December 4th, for the second time in as many years, the Moon's shadow will track across southern Africa bringing a total solar eclipse to African skies. Reaching Africa just before 6:00 Universal Time, the narrow path of totality - corresponding to the path of the Moon's umbra or dark central shadow - will run eastward through Angola, Namibia (Caprivi Strip), Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa's Kruger National Park, and Mozambique. Moving out across the Indian Ocean it will ultimately cross onto the Australian continent at sunset (around 9:10 UT). Observers directly in this path could catch at most a minute or so of the eclipse at its total phase, but at least a partial eclipse will be visible over much of Africa, Australia, some parts of Indonesia, and eastern Antarctica. While watching last year's June 21 eclipse, astronomer Fred Espenak recorded a series of exposures used to construct this dramatic composite image. The sequence follows the 2001 geocentric celestial event from start to finish above a thorny acacia tree near Chisamba, Zambia.

Tomorrow's picture: early morning riser

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