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 April 16
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A Protected Night Sky Over Flagstaff
Credit and Copyright: Dan & Cindy Duriscoe, FDSC, Lowell Obs., USNO

Explanation: This sky is protected. Yesterday marked the 50 year anniversary of the first lighting ordinance ever enacted, which restricted searchlight advertisements from sweeping the night skies above Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. Flagstaff now enjoys the status of being the first International Dark Sky City, and maintains a lighting code that limits lights from polluting this majestic nighttime view. The current dark skies over Flagstaff not only enable local astronomers to decode the universe but allow local sky enthusiasts to see and enjoy a tapestry contemplated previously by every human generation. The above image, pointing just east of north, was taken two weeks ago at 3 am from Fort Valley, only 10 kilometers from central Flagstaff. Visible in the above spectacular panorama are the San Francisco Peaks caped by a lenticular cloud. Far in the distance, the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy arcs diagonally from the lower left to the upper right, highlighted by the constellations of Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus. On the far right, the North America Nebula is visible just under the very bright star Deneb.

Tomorrow's picture: large sunflower

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