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 August 23
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Conjunction Colours
Image Credit & Copyright: Phil Hart

Explanation: During the past week, nightfall on planet Earth has featured Mars, Saturn, and Spica in a lovely conjunction near the western horizon. Still forming the corners of a distinctive celestial triangle after sunset and recently joined by a crescent Moon, they are all about the same brightness but can exhibit different colors to the discerning eye. This ingenious star trail image was recorded as the trio set on August 12 with a telephoto lens from the shores of Lake Eppalock, in central Victoria, Australia. Focused on foreground eucalyptus trees, the image slightly blurs the trails to show more saturated colors. Can you guess which trail is which? Of course the reddest trail is Mars, with Saturn on the right a paler echo of the Red Planet's hue. Left is hot and luminous Spica, bluish alpha star of the constellation Virgo.

Tomorrow's picture: moon meets morning star

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