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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 October 24
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Amazing Comet Holmes
Credit & Copyright: Tony Cook

Explanation: One year ago, Comet 17P/Holmes amazed sky watchers across planet Earth. A stunningly rapid outburst transformed it from a faint comet quietly orbiting the Sun with a period of about 7 years to a naked-eye comet rivaling the brighter stars in the constellation Perseus. Its largely tail-less shape, as in this wide-angle view recorded on November 11, 2007, became well-known to astronomers trying to unravel the mystery of the comet's surprising outburst . Still, Comet Holmes had a dim ion tail that was seen to separate from the bright coma. In this image, the separated tail creates the illusion of a reflection nebula. It appears as a faint bluish haze right of center against a background of stars in the loosely grouped Alpha Persei Moving Cluster.


Tomorrow's picture: pixels beyond


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