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.

2009 July 11
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Noctilucent Cloud Storm Panorama
P-M Hedén (Clear Skies, TWAN)

Explanation: Noctilucent or night-shining clouds lie near the edge of space. From about 80 kilometers above Earth's surface, the icy clouds can still reflect sunlight even though the Sun itself is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually occurring at high latitudes in summer months, the diaphanous apparitions are also known as polar mesospheric clouds and may be connected to global change in the lower atmosphere. This impressive 360 degree panorama made from 34 separate images captures an impressive display of noctilucent clouds all over the sky. It was recorded last month from Vallentuna, Sweden. The photographer reports that the display was like a noctilucent cloud storm, one of the best he's ever witnessed.

Tomorrow's picture: interstellar messaging

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