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.

2006 August 22
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A Smoke Angel from Airplane Flares
Credit: Russell E. Cooley IV, USAF

Explanation: What type of cloud is that? It is not a naturally occurring one. Looking perhaps a bit like a gigantic owl monster, the cloud pictured above resulted from a series of flares released by an air force jet over the Atlantic Ocean in May. The jet that released the flares, a C-17 Globemaster III, is seen on the right. The flares release smoke and the resulting pattern is sometimes known as a smoke angel. The circular eyes of the above smoke angel are caused by air spiraling off the plane's wings and are known as wingtip vortices.

Tomorrow's picture: martian geysers

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