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 10
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A Perseid Below
Image Credit: Ron Garan, ISS Expedition 28 Crew, NASA

Explanation: Denizens of planet Earth typically watch meteor showers by looking up. But this remarkable view, captured on August 13, 2011 by astronaut Ron Garan, caught a Perseid meteor by looking down. From Garan's perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept up dust left from comet Swift-Tuttle heated to incandescence. The glowing comet dust grains are traveling at about 60 kilometers per second through the denser atmosphere around 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. In this case, the foreshortened meteor flash is right of frame center, below the curving limb of the Earth and a layer of greenish airglow, just below bright star Arcturus. Want to look up at a meteor shower? You're in luck, as the 2014 Perseids meteor shower peaks this week. Unfortunately, the fainter meteors in this year's shower will be hard to see in a relatively bright sky lit by the glow of a nearly full Moon.

Tomorrow's picture: approaching a space iceberg

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