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.

December 29, 1997
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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The Milky Way in Infrared
Credit: The COBE Project, DIRBE, NASA

Explanation: At night, from a dark location, part of the clear sky looks milky. This unusual swath of dim light is generally visible during any month and from any location. Until the invention of the telescope, nobody really knew what the "Milky Way" was. About 300 years ago telescopes caused a startling revelation: the Milky Way was made of stars. Only 70 years ago, more powerful telescopes brought the further revelation that the Milky Way is only one galaxy among many. Now telescopes in space allow yet deeper understanding. The above picture was taken by the COBE satellite and shows the plane of our Galaxy in infrared light. The thin disk of our home spiral galaxy is clearly apparent, with stars appearing white and interstellar dust appearing red.

Tomorrow's picture: NGC 7009: The Saturn Nebula

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.