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.

2012 April 29
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A Dangerous Sunrise on Gliese 876d
Illustration Credit & Copyright: Inga Nielsen (Hamburg Obs., Gate to Nowhere)

Explanation: On planet Gliese 876d, sunrises might be dangerous. Although nobody really knows what conditions are like on this close-in planet orbiting variable red dwarf star Gliese 876, the above artistic illustration gives one impression. With an orbit well inside Mercury and a mass several times that of Earth, Gliese 876d might rotate so slowly that dramatic differences exist between night and day. Gliese 876d is imagined above showing significant volcanism, possibly caused by gravitational tides flexing and internally heating the planet, and possibly more volatile during the day. The rising red dwarf star shows expected stellar magnetic activity which includes dramatic and violent prominences. In the sky above, a hypothetical moon has its thin atmosphere blown away by the red dwarf's stellar wind. Gliese 876d excites the imagination partly because it is one of the few extrasolar planets known to be in or near to the habitable zone of its parent star.

Tomorrow's picture: apex aurora

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