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.

August 12, 1998
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ERAST Pathfinder-Plus: Daedalus Defied
Credit: N. Galante (NASA)

Explanation: Daedalus warned Icarus that if he flew too high, the Sun would melt his wings. Apparently, nobody gave the ERAST Pathfinder-Plus aircraft a similar warning. Earlier this month, not only did Pathfinder-Plus fly higher than any previous propeller-driven aircraft - its wings converted sunlight into power. Pictured, Pathfinder-Plus is flying above Hawaii soon after soaring to a record height of 24,700 meters. What's more, Pathfinder-Plus is only a prototype -- future aircraft in the ERAST program may fly higher. Pathfinder's wings spread nearly 30 meters, and its total mass is only about 270 kilograms. NASA's Pathfinder-Plus is flown by remote control, and can stay aloft for weeks at a time.

Tomorrow's picture: The Moons Of Earth

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