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.

2004 April 2

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Mercury and Venus in the West
Credit & Copyright: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College)

Explanation: Doing their part in the ongoing dance of the planets, Mercury and Venus both reached their greatest elongation or maximum apparent distance from the Sun only a few days ago, on March 29th. Eager to record their celestial accomplishment, astronomer Jimmy Westlake snapped this view of the two inner most planets shining in western twilight skies above Yampa, Colorado, USA. The picture was taken using a digital camera mounted on a tripod. Mercury is easily the brightest celestial object near the horizon, appearing to the right of the foreground structure and just above a thin cloud silhouetted by fading sunlight. Still, near the top of the picture brilliant Venus dominates the scene as the magnificent evening star. After climbing in western skies throughout the month of March, Venus lies just below the Pleiades star cluster. Tonight and tomorrow night, skygazers can spot Venus at the southern edge of the Pleiades.

Tomorrow's picture: it's a mystery

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