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.

2001 June 21
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Diamond Ring in the Sun
Credit & Copyright: Fred Espenak (courtesy of

Explanation: Today, earthbound skygazers can celebrate a solstice, a new Moon, the closest approach of planet Mars since 1988 ... oh yes, and a total eclipse of the Sun, the first total solar eclipse of the third millennium. Of course for some, today's most spectacular celestial views will be of the eclipsed Sun from along the path of totality as the new Moon's shadow tracks across southern Africa and Madagascar. This picture from the August 1999 total solar eclipse captures the shimmering solar corona just as that eclipse's total phase ended, as seen from eastern Turkey. The first rays of bright sunlight shinning through edge-on lunar mountains and valleys create the fleeting appearance of glistening diamonds set in a ring around the Moon's silhouette. Do you want to see today's solar eclipse? Eclipse expeditions are offering live webcasts.

Tomorrow's picture: African Eclipse

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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.