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 August 17
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Perseid Below
Credit: Ron Garan, ISS Expedition 28 Crew, NASA

Explanation: Denizens of planet Earth watched this year's Perseid meteor shower by looking up into the moonlit night sky. But this remarkable view captured by astronaut Ron Garan looks down on a Perseid meteor. From Garan's perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept up dust left from comet Swift-Tuttle heated to incandescence. The glowing comet dust grains are traveling at about 60 kilometers per second through the denser atmosphere around 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. In this case, the foreshortened meteor flash is right of frame center, below the curving limb of the Earth and a layer of greenish airglow. Out of the frame, the Sun is on the horizon beyond one of the station's solar panel arrays at the upper right. Seen above the meteor near the horizon is bright star Arcturus and a star field that includes the constellations Bootes and Corona Borealis. The image was recorded on August 13 while the space station orbited above an area of China approximately 400 kilometers to the northwest of Beijing.

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