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.

2016 February 17
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Milky Way over the Pinnacles in Australia
Image Credit: Michael Goh

Explanation: What strange world is this? Earth. In the foreground of the featured image are the Pinnacles, unusual rock spires in Nambung National Park in Western Australia. Made of ancient sea shells (limestone), how these human-sized picturesque spires formed remains unknown. In the background, just past the end of the central Pinnacle, is a bright crescent Moon. The eerie glow around the Moon is mostly zodiacal light, sunlight reflected by dust grains orbiting between the planets in the Solar System. Arching across the top is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. Many famous stars and nebula are also visible in the background night sky. The featured 29-panel panorama was taken and composed last September after detailed planning that involved the Moon, the rock spires, and their corresponding shadows. Even so, the strong zodiacal light was a pleasant surprise.

Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator
Tomorrow's picture: open space

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