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 May 7
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Look West for a NEAT Comet
Credit & Copyright: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College)

Explanation: On May 5th, while scanning western skies after sunset, astronomer Jimmy Westlake was glad to spot a visitor from the outer solar system, Comet NEAT, with his own eyes. Taken with a normal lens, the picture records his memorable view of comet, clouds, and Colorado Rocky Mountains against a backdrop of many faint stars (most not visible to the unaided eye) and one very bright one. In the three minute time exposure, the comet is seen as a fuzzy greenish smudge left of center, with brilliant Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major, just above the low cloud bank on the right. Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4) is now near its closest aproach to planet Earth and tonight will lie well above bright Sirius. Look for the comet - the third naked-eye comet in as many weeks - after sunset in clear, dark, western skies.

Tomorrow's picture: Sydney too ...

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