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.

2010 December 4
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Sunset at the Spiral Jetty
Image Credit & Copyright: Arne Erisoty

Explanation: In dwindling twilight at an August day's end, these broad dark bands appeared in the sky for a moment, seen from Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty on the eastern shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake. Outlined by rays of sunlight known as crepuscular rays, they are actually shadows cast by clouds near the distant western horizon, the setting Sun having disappeared from direct view behind them. The cloud shadows are parallel, but seem to converge in the distance because of perspective. Coiled in the salt-encrusted lake surface, Smithson's most famous earthwork provides a dramatic contrast to the converging lines. The Spiral Jetty was constructed in 1970, when the water level was unusually low and was completely submerged in a few years as the level rose. Now just above water again, it has spent much of its existence submerged in the briny lake.

Tomorrow's picture: moonset

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