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.

2011 March 18
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Mercury and Jupiter at Sunset
Image Credit & Copyright: Göran Strand

Explanation: When warm sunset hues begin to fade, two celestial beacons now shine in the evening twilight, Mercury and Jupiter. Wandering away from the Sun in planet Earth's sky, Mercury will offer good views this month as spring approaches in the northern hemisphere where the ecliptic plane makes a steep angle with the western horizon. But Jupiter will continue sinking lower in the sky after sunset. In fact, the normally elusive Mercury shines well above Jupiter and the orange sunset glow in this serene sky. Captured earlier this week from the island of of Frösön in northern Sweden, the scene looks across Lake Storsjön toward the village of Hallen and distant mountains. Of course, even better views of Mercury can be had by the MESSENGER spacecraft, now orbiting the Solar System's innermost planet!

Tomorrow's picture: M106

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