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 July 31
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Veins of Heaven
Image Credit & Copyright: P-M Hedén (Clear Skies, TWAN)

Explanation: Transfusing sunlight through a still dark sky, this exceptional display of noctilucent clouds was captured earlier this month above the island of Gotland, Sweden. From the edge of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth's surface, the icy clouds reflect sunlight even though the Sun itself is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months the night shining clouds made a strong showing this July. Also known as polar mesopheric clouds they are understood to form as water vapor driven into the cold upper atmosphere condenses on the fine dust particles supplied by disintegrating meteors or volcanic ash. NASA's AIM mission provides daily projections of noctilucent clouds as seen from space.

Tomorrow's picture: scene from planet Earth

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