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.

2014 January 3
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Lovejoy in the New Year
Image Credit & Copyright: Damian Peach

Explanation: A rival to vanquished Comet ISON in 2013, Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) still sweeps through early morning skies, captured in this starry scene on New Year's day. The frame stretches some 3.5 degrees (about 7 full moons) across a background of faint stars in the constellation Hercules. Only just visible to the naked eye from dark sites before dawn, Lovejoy remains a good target for the northern hemisphere's binocular equipped skygazers. But this deep exposure shows off Lovejoy's beautiful tails and tantalizing greenish coma better than binocular views. Not a sungrazer, this Comet Lovejoy made its closest approach to the Sun around December 22, looping high above the ecliptic plane. Now headed for the outer Solar System, Lovejoy began the new year about 6.7 light-minutes from planet Earth.

Free lecture: APOD editor to speak in NYC Tonight
Tomorrow's picture: a crescent conjunction

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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