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.

2011 July 11

A Total Lunar Eclipse Over Tajikistan
Image Credit & Copyright: Jean-Luc Dauvergne (Ciel et Espace); Music: Valère Leroy & Sophie Huet (Space-Music)

Explanation: If the full Moon suddenly faded, what would you see? The answer during the total lunar eclipse last month was recorded in a dramatic time lapse video from Tajikistan. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Moon and the Sun, causing the moon to fade dramatically. The Moon never gets completely dark, though, since the Earth's atmosphere refracts some light. As the above video begins, the scene may appear to be daytime and sunlit, but actually it is a nighttime and lit by the glow of the full Moon. As the moon becomes eclipsed and fades, the wind dies down and background stars can be seen reflected in foreground lake. Most spectacularly, the sky surrounding the eclipsed moon suddenly appears to be full of stars and highlighted by the busy plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The sequence repeats with a closer view, and the final image shows the placement of the eclipsed Moon near the Eagle, Swan, Trifid, and Lagoon nebulas. Nearly two hours after the eclipse started, the moon emerges from the Earth's shadow and its bright full glare again dominates the sky.

Tomorrow's picture: galaxies everywhere

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