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.

2013 June 1
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The Milky Trail
Image Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (, TWAN)

Explanation: Have you ever hiked the Queen's Garden trail in Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA, planet Earth? Walking along that path in this dark night skyscape, you can almost imagine your journey continues along the pale, luminous Milky Way. Of course, the name for our galaxy, the Milky Way (in Latin, Via Lactea), does refer to its appearance as a milky band or path in the sky. In fact, the word galaxy itself derives from the Greek for milk. Visible on moonless nights from dark sky areas, though not so bright or quite so colorful as in this image, the glowing celestial band is due to the collective light of myriad stars along the plane of our galaxy, too faint to be distinguished individually. The diffuse starlight is cut by dark swaths of obscuring galactic dust clouds. Four hundred years ago, Galileo turned his telescope on the Milky Way and announced it to be "... a congeries of innumerable stars ..."

Tomorrow's picture: cloudy day

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