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.

2007 March 4
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Triton: Neptune's Largest Moon
Credit: Voyager 2, NASA

Explanation: In October of 1846, William Lassell was observing the newly discovered planet Neptune. He was attempting to confirm his observation, made just the previous week, that Neptune had a ring. But this time he discovered that Neptune had a satellite as well. Lassell soon proved that the ring was a product of his new telescope's distortion, but the satellite Triton remained. The above picture of Triton was taken in 1989 by the only spacecraft ever to pass Triton: Voyager 2. Voyager 2 found fascinating terrain, a thin atmosphere, and even evidence for ice volcanoes on this world of peculiar orbit and spin. Ironically, Voyager 2 also confirmed the existence of complete thin rings around Neptune - but these would have been quite invisible to Lassell!

Tomorrow's picture: reality versus illusion

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