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 May 27
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A Mercury Transit Sequence
Credit & Copyright: Dominique Dierick

Explanation: Earlier this month, the planet Mercury crossed the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Because the plane of Mercury's orbit is not exactly coincident with the plane of Earth's orbit, Mercury usually appears to pass over or under the Sun. The above time-lapse sequence, superimposed on a single frame, was taken from a balcony in Belgium on May 7 and shows the entire transit. The solar crossing lasted over five hours, so that the above 23 images were taken roughly 15 minutes apart. The north pole of the Sun, the Earth, Mercury's orbit, although all different, all occur in directions slightly above the left of the image. Near the center and on the far right, sunspots are visible.

Tomorrow's picture: oxygen supply

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