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 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Airplane Flight Patterns over the USA
Credit & Copyright: Aaron Koblin, FAA

Explanation: What are these Earthlings going? Millions of people move about planet Earth by airplane every day. Hundreds of thousands of airplane flights take place over the US every day. A dramatic graphical depiction of these flights was created by Aaron Koblin and is shown above. Clicking on the above image will bring up a movie in many web browsers, a movie that might better be visible here. The movie depicts flight patterns that occurred over a few days in 2005 March. The count on the lower left shows the number of USA-related flights at the time listed on the lower right. The trails shown are not contrails but rather generated artificially by a computer algorithm. Major cities in North America and the USA are discernable. Inspection of the movie shows that some times of the day are busier than others, indicating that flights leave some destinations at times that are convenient for travelers. In terms of distance, flying to a distant location is much safer than driving to that location. Flying in an airplane, however, remains slightly more dangerous than driving to a nearby airport.

Tomorrow's picture: peculiar galaxies

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