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 October 31
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SH2 136: A Spooky Nebula
Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

Explanation: The dark nebula SH2-136 appears to be celebrating Halloween all of the time. The complex process of star formation create dust clouds of many shapes and sizes -- it is human perception that might identify a ghoulish creature, on the right of the above image, chasing humans. Halloween's modern celebration retains historic roots in dressing to scare away the spirits of the dead. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the northern hemisphere). With our modern calendar, however, the real cross-quarter day will occur next week. Other cross-quarter markers include Groundhog Day and Walpurgis Night.

Tomorrow's picture: almost mars

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