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.

2004 December 24
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Swift RocketCam
Credit: Dan Maas (Maas Digital), Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation, NASA

Explanation: A forward-facing RocketCam (TM) mounted inside the payload fairing of a Delta II rocket captured these dramatic video frames on November 20th -- as the Swift satellite observatory journeyed to an orbit 600 kilometers above planet Earth. Some frames were interpolated to correct for transmission problems. The sequence shows the fairing separation, the second stage rotating past the Earth's limb, and finally the 1500 kilogram satellite itself separating from the second stage. Observing at optical, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma-ray energies, Swift is designed to locate the sources of energetic gamma-ray bursts and watch as their afterglows fade in the distant Universe. Still in its checkout phase, the observatory is already detecting the high energy flashes from these awe-inspiring cosmic blasts.

Tomorrow's picture: unwrapped

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.