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.

2008 January 7
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Quadrantid Meteors and Aurora from the Air
Credit: Jeremie Vaubaillon et al., Caltech, NASA

Explanation: Where do meteor showers originate? To help answer this question, astronomers studied in some detail the Quadrantid meteor shower that occurred over this past weekend. In particular, astronomers with specialized cameras flew as part of the Quadrantid's Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign (MAC) aboard a Gulfstream V aircraft above northern Canada over the past few days and studied the Quadrantid meteor shower in unprecedented detail. Pictured above is a composite image combining many short exposures. Visible in the image are the wingtip of the airplane reflecting a red beacon on the left, green aurora most prominent on the image right, and numerous meteor streaks throughout. Preliminary indications are that the meteor stream is quite stable in time but variable in meteor abundance. Over 100 meteors per hour were visible at the peak from the MAC aircraft. Meteor data from around the world will continue to be analyzed to try to verify Peter Jenniskens's recent hypothesis that minor planet 2003 EH1 is an intermittently active comet and the parent body of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower.

Note: Meet sky enthusiasts, astro bloggers, and APOD editor RN in Austin tomorrow (Tuesday) night.
Tomorrow's picture: jupiter io

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