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 October 3
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Comet Hale-Bopp and the North America Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado

Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp's 1997 encounter with the inner Solar System allowed many breath-taking pictures. Above, Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed crossing the constellation of Cygnus, sporting spectacular yellow dust and blue ion tails. Visible on the right in red is the North America Nebula, a bright emission nebula observable from a dark location with binoculars. The North America Nebula is about 1500 light-years away, much farther than the comet, which was only about 8 light minutes away. Several bright blue stars from the open cluster M39 are visible just above the comet's blue ion tail.

Tomorrow's picture: star pillars

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