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.

2023 October 31
The center of the Wizard Nebula is shown featuring 
gas glowing in red and dust reflecting in blue. Dark
dust pillars are seen throughout the image. 
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Halloween and the Wizard Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Richard McInnis

Explanation: Halloween's origin is ancient and astronomical. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the northern hemisphere). With a modern calendar however, even though Halloween occurs today, the real cross-quarter day will occur next week. Another cross-quarter day is Groundhog Day. Halloween's modern celebration retains historic roots in dressing to scare away the spirits of the dead. Perhaps a fitting tribute to this ancient holiday is this closeup view of the Wizard Nebula (NGC 7380). Visually, the interplay of stars, gas, and dust has created a shape that appears to some like a fictional ancient sorcerer. Although the nebula may last only a few million years, some of the stars being conjured from the gas by the great gravitational powers may outlive our Sun.

Tomorrow's picture: sun block

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