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.

July 17, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
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Hyakutake: Stars Through A Comet's Tail
Credit and Copyright: R. Scott and J. Orman

Explanation: Comets are cosmic icebergs. They follow very elongated orbits which carry them from the frozen, remote outer reaches of the Solar System to close encounters with the Sun. Heated by sunlight, they slough off layers of material as gas and dust, forming their characteristic awe-inspiring comas (heads) and tails. In the spring of 1996, Comet Hyakutake inspired Arizona photographers Rick Scott and Joe Orman to take this picture showing faint stars near the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) shining through the comet's long, graceful tail. Blown by the solar wind, comet tails generally point away from the Sun.

Tomorrow's picture: Rockets

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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.