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 August 26
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Earth Webcam Catches Mars Rotation
Credit: Howard C. Anderson (

Explanation: Mars won't look this good. Tonight and over the next few days, when Mars is at its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, you might get your best view ever of our planetary neighbor. Please, though, don't expect to see this much structure, or expect to see Mars rotate so much in so brief a period. The above 20-frame movie was created from 1000 frames of a backyard webcam that were meticulously aligned, added, and digitally sequenced. Pictured, Mars appears to rotate in a time-lapse sequence, with each frame separated by 30 minutes of real time. In reality, one full Martian rotation -- a Martian day -- is only about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. For those with access to a small telescope, here is how mars will really look.

Tomorrow's picture: Mars from Hubble

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