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.

January 1, 1996
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Shuttle Engine Blast
Credit: NASA, STS-51 Crew

Explanation: The Space Shuttle Discovery's orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engine firing produced this dramatic flare as it cruised "upside down" in low Earth orbit. Discovery was named for a ship commanded by Captain James Cook RN, the 18th Century English astronomer and navigator. Cook's voyages of discovery established new standards in scientific exploration and brought extensive knowledge of the unknown Pacific regions, including Australia, New Zealand, and the Hawaiian Island archipelago to Europeans. NASA's four-orbiter Space Shuttle fleet will begin a new year of operation on January 11, with the planned launch of the shuttle Endeavour (STS-72). Also named after one of Cook's ships, Endeavor is the latest addition to the shuttle fleet.

Tomorrow's picture: The X-Ray Sky

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