Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

November 26, 1995
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A Star Where Photons Orbit
Credit and Copyright: Robert Nemiroff, (GMU, NASA/ GSFC)

Explanation: The above computer animated picture depicts how a very compact star would look to a nearby observer. The star pictured is actually more compact that any known except a black hole, so it is only hypothetical. The observer is situated at the photon sphere, where photons can orbit in a circle. To help the viewer better visualize the great distortions created by gravity, a map of the Earth was projected onto the star, and a map of the familiar night sky was projected above. From here one can either look down and see several duplicate images of the entire surface of the star, look up and see several duplicate images of the entire night sky, or look along the photon sphere and see the back of one's own head.

Tomorrow's picture: Too Near a Black Hole

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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