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 15
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Perseid in Moonlight
Image Credit & Copyright: Amir Hossein Abolfath (TWAN)

Explanation: Bright moonlight from a Full Moon near perigee illuminates the night and casts shadows in this skyscape from central Iran. Taken on August 12, near the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower the exposure also captures a bright and colorful perseid streak above the shady tree in the foreground. This year the super moonlight interfered with meteor watching into the early morning hours, overwhelming the trails from many fainter perseids in the shower. Brighter perseids like this one were still visible though, their trails pointing back to the heroic constellation Perseus outlined at the right. Swept up as planet Earth orbits through dust left behind from periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, the cosmic grains that produce perseid meteors enter the atmosphere at nearly 60 kilometers per second, heated to incandesence and vaporized at altitudes of about 100 kilometers. Next year, Perseid meteors will flash through dark skies under a New Moon.

Editor's note: The outline of Perseus in the picture is close, but not quite right.
A corrected version is available here, thanks to Wil Tirion.

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

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