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 19
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Running Messier's Marathon
Credit & Copyright: Amir Hossein Abolfath

Explanation: Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, many northern hemisphere stargazers embark on a Messier Marathon. Completing the marathon requires viewing all 110 objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier's catalog in one glorious dusk-to-dawn observing run. As daunting as it sounds, there are often favorable weekend dates for completing the task that fall on nearly moonless nights near the March equinox. This colorful, six hour long time exposure of a group dedicated to running this year's Messier marathon includes celestial star trails along with terrestrial lighting trails from about 200 amateur astronomers. It was recorded from the isolated, ancient Bahram Palace in northern Iran's Kavir National Park. Astronomer and former Messier Marathon organizer for the ASIAC Babak Tafreshi offers this intriguing time-lapse movie (2MB wmv file) of the event.

Tomorrow's picture: when galaxies collide

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