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.

2002 November 15
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Night Trails of Africa
Credit & Copyright: LeRoy Zimmerman

Explanation: Spanning southern to northern skies, stars trail across this panoramic view of the African night from equatorial Kenya. The three hour long exposure was made on a clear, dark, mid November evening facing due west and covers just over 180 degrees along the horizon. So, the South Celestial Pole is at the center of the concentric arcs on the left and the North Celestial Pole is at the far right (scroll right). And, you guessed it(!), the stars setting along the Celestial Equator leave the straight trails near the middle of the picture. Well illustrated in this thoughtfully composed panorama, the star trails in the African night are, of course, not due to motions of the individual stars but simply reflect the daily rotation of planet Earth itself.

Tomorrow's picture: weekend trails

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