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 September 5
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Aurigids from 47,000 Feet
Credit: Jeremie Vaubaillon, Caltech, NASA

Explanation: On September 1, Aurigid meteors filled the sky, in keeping with an innovative prediction of an outburst from this historically tentative meteor shower. The prediction was made by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute, in work with Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech. Astronomers flying at 47,000 feet on a dedicated mission to observe the outburst collected image data for this composite photo of the Aurigids' bright and colorful streaks. The source of the shower is understood to be Comet Kiess, a comet that would have swung through the inner solar system around 2,000 years ago, and again in 1911. Pushed outward by solar radiation pressure, dust from the tail of the comet has been drifting toward the Earth's orbit, creating the 2007 outburst as well as outbursts of the Aurigids recorded in 1935, 1986, and 1994. Of course, the shower's radiant point is in the eponymous constellation Auriga, the Charioteer.

Tomorrow's picture: time travel

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