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 September 21
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September's Aurora
Image Credit & Copyright: Fredrick Broms (Northern Lights Photography)

Explanation: September's equinox arrives tomorrow as the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south. The event marks the astronomical beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere and autumn in the north. And though the connection is still puzzling, the equinox seasons bring an increase in geomagnetic storms. So as northern nights grow longer, the equinox also heralds the arrival of a good season for aurora hunters. Recorded on September 20, these colorful northern lights were captured with camera and wide-angle lens near the Norwegian Sea coast outside Tromsø in Northern Norway. Shining at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, the aurora rays are parallel, but perspective makes them appear to radiate from a vanishing point behind the silhouetted pine tree. Stars in this enchanting northern night include Polaris above and right of the tree top, and yellowish giant stars Shedar (Alpha Cassiopiae) to the left and Kochab (Beta Ursae Minoris) to the right. Bright Altair shines through the greenish auroral curtain at the lower left of the scene.

Tomorrow's picture: the sun, the wine, and the klapotetz

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