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 July 30
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Northern Lights
Credit & Copyright: Philippe Moussette (Obs. Mont Cosmos)

Explanation: While enjoying the spaceweather on a gorgeous summer evening in mid-July, astronomer Philippe Moussette captured this colorful fish-eye lens view looking north from the Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada, planet Earth. In the foreground, lights along the northern horizon give an orange cast to the low clouds. But far above the clouds, at altitudes of 100 kilometers or more, are alluring green and purple hues of the aurora borealis or northern lights, a glow powered by energetic particles at the edge of space. In the background are familiar stars of the northern sky. In particular, that famous celestial kitchen utensil, the Big Dipper (left), and the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia (right) are easy to spot. Then, just follow the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to Polaris, perhaps the most famous northern light of all.

Tomorrow's picture: blue moon

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