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 May 19
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Circum-axial Leaf Trails
Credit & Copyright: Trudy E. Bell

Explanation: Are photographs of star trails really evidence of the Earth's rotation about its axis? Yes they are, and science journalist Trudy E. Bell discovered that there is a simple way to demonstrate this, if you have the stomach for it. First, find a playground equipped with a standard Merry-Go-Round (MGR) located under or near a large, leafy tree. Seat yourself near the middle of the MGR platform. Ask a local playground expert (KID) to get you spinning very, very fast. As the scenery flashes by at a dizzying rate, point your camera skyward and take a picture with a slow shutter speed setting. The result will be similar to this excellent image of concentric, arcing leaf trails centered at a point corresponding to the MGR's axis of rotation - a convincing imitation of circumpolar star trails recorded in hours-long exposures of planet Earth's night sky. Then, just stand up and walk away ... if you still can.

Tomorrow's picture: spherule

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