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 August 9
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A Luminous Night
Image Credit & Copyright: Phil Hart

Explanation: What shines in the world at night? Just visible to the eye, a rare electric blue glow spread along the shores of Victoria Lake on January 16, 2013. Against reflections of a light near the horizon, this digitally stacked long exposure recorded the bioluminescence of Noctiluca scintillans, plankton stimulated by the lapping waves. Above, the night skies of the Gippsland Lakes region, Victoria, Australia shine with a fainter greenish airglow. Oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere, initially excited by ultraviolet sunlight, produce the more widely seen fading atmospheric chemiluminescence. Washed out by the Earth's rotation, the faint band of the southern summer Milky Way stretches from the horizon as star trails circle the South Celestial Pole.

Watch: Meteors vs. Supermoon
Tomorrow's picture: meteor below

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