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 June 5
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Jet Approaching a Crescent Moon
Credit & Copyright: Vincent Jacques

Explanation: No natural clouds appear in this picture. On the left, an airplane cruises through the atmosphere leaving a contrail in its wake. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright orange hue. Far in the distance, to the right of the plane, is the young Moon. This vast world shows only a sliver of itself because the Sun is nearly lined up behind it. The above image is framed by an eerie gray sky, too far from day to be blue, too far from night to be black. Within minutes the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon. The contrail dispersed. The Sun set. The Moon set. The sky faded to black, only to reveal thousands of stars that had been hiding below the gray din.

Tomorrow's picture: rose statues

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