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.

2003 February 26
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Anticrepuscular Rays Over Horseshoe Canyon
Credit & Copyright: Peggy Peterson

Explanation: What's happening over the horizon? Although the scene may appear somehow supernatural, nothing more unusual is occurring than a setting Sun and some well placed clouds. Pictured above are anticrepuscular rays. To understand them, start by picturing common crepuscular rays that are seen any time that sunlight pours though scattered clouds. Now although sunlight indeed travels along straight lines, the projections of these lines onto the spherical sky are great circles. Therefore, the crepuscular rays from a setting (or rising) sun will appear to re-converge on the other side of the sky. At the anti-solar point 180 degrees around from the Sun, they are referred to as anticrepuscular rays. While enjoying the sunset after dinner near Horseshoe Canyon in Utah, the photographer chanced to find that an even more spectacular sight was occurring in the other direction just over the canyon -- a particularly vivid set of anticrepuscular rays.

Tomorrow's picture: moon dance

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