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 February 26
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Aurora over New Zealand
Image Credit & Copyright: David Weir (Earth and Sky Ltd.)

Explanation: Sometimes the more you look at an image, the more you see. Such may be the case for this beautiful nighttime panorama taken last week in New Zealand. Visible right off, on the far left, are common clouds, slightly altered by the digital fusion of combining 11 separate 20-second exposures. More striking, perhaps, is the broad pink aurora that dominates the right part of the image, a less common auroral color that is likely tinted by excited oxygen atoms high in Earth's atmosphere. Keep looking and you might notice a bright light just beyond the mountain on the left. That is the rising Moon -- and an even closer look will reveal faint crepuscular rays emanating from it. Musing over the image center may cause you to notice the central band of the Milky Way Galaxy which here appears to divide, almost vertically, the left clouds from the right aurora. Inspecting the upper right of the image reveals a fuzzy patch, high in the sky, that is the Small Magellanic Cloud. Numerous stars discretely populate the distant background. Back on Earth, the image foreground features two domes of the Mt. John University Observatory and a camera tripod looking to capture much of this scene over a serene Lake Tekapo.

Tomorrow's picture: daytime

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