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 June 15
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A Rare Annular Venusian Solar Eclipse
Credit & Copyright: Peter Lawrence

Explanation: An unusual type of solar eclipse occurred last week. Usually it is the Earth's Moon that eclipses the Sun. Last week, for the first time in over 100 years, the planet Venus took a turn. Like a solar eclipse by the Moon, the phase of Venus became a continually thinner crescent as Venus became increasingly better aligned with the Sun. Eventually the alignment became perfect and the phase of Venus dropped to zero. The dark spot of Venus crossed our parent star. The situation could technically be labeled a Venusian annular eclipse with an extraordinarily large ring of fire. From above the thick cloud tops of Venus, the Earth appeared in its fullest phase, brighter in the Venusian sky than even Mars appeared from Earth last August. Hours later, as Venus continued in its orbit, a slight crescent phase appeared again. The next Venusian solar eclipse will occur in 2012.

Tomorrow's picture: huge ball of stars

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