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.

January 30, 1998
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Tempel-Tuttle: The Leonid Comet
Credit and Copyright: T. Puckett (Puckett Observatory)

Explanation: Star trails streak this composite time exposure of Comet Tempel-Tuttle recorded by T. Puckett on January 26. Presently passing through the inner solar system on its 33 year orbit around the Sun, Tempel-Tuttle has brightened unexpectedly, but binoculars or small telescopes are still required to visually observe it. Tempel-Tuttle is also called "the Leonid Comet" as the yearly Leonid meteor shower results when the Earth crosses this comet's orbital plane and encounters cometary dust. So, while not currently rivaling the spectacle of a Hyakutake or Hale-Bopp, Tempel-Tuttle may still put on a show. When the Earth plunges through Tempel-Tuttle's debris tail in November of this year, many sky-watchers are anticipating an extremely active meteor shower to result, perhaps even a meteor storm!

Tomorrow's picture: Hamlet of Oberon

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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.