logo

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "airplane"




Found 95 items.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 December 4 – Plane Crossing Crescent Moon
Explanation: No, the Moon is not a bow, and no, it did not shoot out a plane like an arrow. What is pictured is a chance superposition. The plane's contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the rising Sun preferentially knocked away blue light, not only making the sky blue, but giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, well behind the plane, the crescent Moon also appears slightly reddened. Captured early last month from Bolton, UK, the featured image was taken so soon after sunrise that the plane was sunlit from below, as was its contrail. Within minutes, unfortunately, the impromptu sky show ended. The plane moved out of sight. The Moon kept rising but became harder to see through a brightening sky. And the contrail gradually dispersed.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 November 12 – Gibbous Moon beyond Swedish Mountain
Explanation: This is a gibbous Moon. More Earthlings are familiar with a full moon, when the entire face of Luna is lit by the Sun, and a crescent moon, when only a sliver of the Moon's face is lit. When more than half of the Moon is illuminated, though, but still short of full illumination, the phase is called gibbous. Rarely seen in television and movies, gibbous moons are quite common in the actual night sky. The featured image was taken in Jämtland, Sweden near the end of 2018 October. That gibbous moon turned, in a few days, into a crescent moon, and then a new moon, then back to a crescent, and a few days past that, back to gibbous. Setting up to capture a picturesque gibbous moonscape, the photographer was quite surprised to find an airplane, surely well in the foreground, appearing to fly past it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 October 8 – Plane, Clouds, Moon, Spots, Sun
Explanation: What's that in front of the Sun? The closest object is an airplane, visible just below the Sun's center and caught purely by chance. Next out are numerous clouds in Earth's atmosphere, creating a series of darkened horizontal streaks. Farther out is Earth's Moon, seen as the large dark circular bite on the upper right. Just above the airplane and just below the Sun's surface are sunspots. The main sunspot group captured here, AR 2192, was in 2014 one of the largest ever recorded and had been crackling and bursting with flares since it came around the edge of the Sun a week before. This show of solar silhouettes was unfortunately short-lived. Within a few seconds the plane flew away. Within a few minutes the clouds drifted off. Within a few hours the partial solar eclipse of the Sun by the Moon was over. Fortunately, when it comes to the Sun, even unexpected alignments are surprisingly frequent. Perhaps one will be imaged this Saturday when a new partial solar eclipse will be visible from much of North and South America.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 December 5 - Total Solar Eclipse Below the Bottom of the World
Explanation: Yesterday there was a total solar eclipse visible only at the end of the Earth. To capture the unusual phenomenon, airplanes took flight below the clouded seascape of Southern Ocean. The featured image shows one relatively spectacular capture where the bright spot is the outer corona of the Sun and the eclipsing Moon is seen as the dark spot in the center. A wing and engine of the airplane are visible across the left and bottom of the image, while another airplane observing the eclipse is visible on the far left. The dark area of the sky surrounding the eclipsed Sun is called a shadow cone. It is dark because you are looking down a long corridor of air shadowed by the Moon. A careful inspection of the eclipsed Sun will reveal the planet Mercury just to the right. The next total solar eclipse shadow will cross parts of Australia and Indonesia in April of 2023, while the one after that will cross North America in April of 2024.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 November 14 - How to Identify that Light in the Sky
Explanation: What is that light in the sky? Perhaps one of humanity's more common questions, an answer may result from a few quick observations. For example -- is it moving or blinking? If so, and if you live near a city, the answer is typically an airplane, since planes are so numerous and so few stars and satellites are bright enough to be seen over the din of artificial city lights. If not, and if you live far from a city, that bright light is likely a planet such as Venus or Mars -- the former of which is constrained to appear near the horizon just before dawn or after dusk. Sometimes the low apparent motion of a distant airplane near the horizon makes it hard to tell from a bright planet, but even this can usually be discerned by the plane's motion over a few minutes. Still unsure? The featured chart gives a sometimes-humorous but mostly-accurate assessment. Dedicated sky enthusiasts will likely note -- and are encouraged to provide -- polite corrections.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 May 12 - A Meteor and the Gegenschein
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured here from last March is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. The deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Teide Observatory in Spain's Canary Islands shows the gegenschein as part of extended zodiacal light. Notable background objects include a bright meteor (on the left), the Big Dipper (top right), and Polaris (far right). The meteor nearly points toward Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain, while the Pyramid solar laboratory is visible on the right. During the day, a phenomenon like the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 June 24 - Inverted City Beneath Clouds
Explanation: How could that city be upside-down? The city, Chicago, was actually perfectly right-side up. The long shadows it projected onto nearby Lake Michigan near sunset, however, when seen in reflection, made the buildings appear inverted. This fascinating, puzzling, yet beautiful image was captured by a photographer in 2014 on an airplane on approach to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The Sun can be seen both above and below the cloud deck, with the latter reflected in the calm lake. As a bonus, if you look really closely -- and this is quite a challenge -- you can find another airplane in the image, likely also on approach to the same airport.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 October 14 - Andromeda before Photoshop
Explanation: What does the Andromeda galaxy really look like? The featured image shows how our Milky Way Galaxy's closest major galactic neighbor really appears in a long exposure through Earth's busy skies and with a digital camera that introduces normal imperfections. The picture is a stack of 223 images, each a 300 second exposure, taken from a garden observatory in Portugal over the past year. Obvious image deficiencies include bright parallel airplane trails, long and continuous satellite trails, short cosmic ray streaks, and bad pixels. These imperfections were actually not removed with Photoshop specifically, but rather greatly reduced with a series of computer software packages that included Astro Pixel Processor, DeepSkyStacker, and PixInsight. All of this work was done not to deceive you with a digital fantasy that has little to do with the real likeness of the Andromeda galaxy (M31), but to minimize Earthly artifacts that have nothing to do with the distant galaxy and so better recreate what M31 really does look like.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 September 18 - Gigantic Jet Lightning over India
Explanation: Yes, but can your lightning bolt do this? While flying from Munich to Singapore earlier this month, an industrious passenger took images of a passing lightning storm and caught something unexpected: gigantic jet lightning. The jet was captured on a single 3.2-second exposure above Bhadrak, India. Although the gigantic jet appears connected to the airplane's wing, it likely started in a more distant thundercloud, and can be seen extending upwards towards Earth's ionosphere. The nature of gigantic jets and their possible association with other types of Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) such as blue jets and red sprites remains an active topic of research.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 June 24 - Anticrepuscular Rays Converge Opposite the Sun
Explanation: Is there ever anything interesting to see in the direction opposite the Sun? Sometimes there is. Notable items include your own shadow, a shadow of the Moon during a total solar eclipse, a full moon -- in eclipse if the alignment's good enough, a full earth, planets at opposition, glints from planets, the gegenschein from interplanetary dust, the center of a rainbow, hall-of-mountain fogbows, an airplane glory, and something yet again different if your timing, clouds and Sun position are just right. This different effect starts with clouds near the Sun that are causing common crepuscular rays to stream through. In the featured rare image taken from an airplane in mid-April, these beams were caught converging 180 degrees around, on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun, where they are called anticrepuscular rays. Therefore, it may look like something bright is shining at the antisolar point near the image center, but actually it is reverse-shining because, from your direction, light is streaming in, not out.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 12 - Plane Crossing a Crescent Moon
Explanation: No, this is not a good way to get to the Moon. What is pictured is a chance superposition of an airplane and the Moon. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, well behind the plane, is a crescent Moon, also slightly reddened. Captured a month ago above Valais, Switzerland, the featured image was taken so soon after sunset that planes in the sky were still in sunlight, as were their contrails. Within minutes, unfortunately, the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon and moved out of sight. The Moon set. The contrail became unilluminated and then dispersed.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 November 19 - Gibbous Moon beyond Swedish Mountain
Explanation: This is a gibbous Moon. More Earthlings are familiar with a full moon, when the entire face of Luna is lit by the Sun, and a crescent moon, when only a sliver of the Moon's face is lit. When more than half of the Moon is illuminated, though, but still short of full illumination, the phase is called gibbous. Rarely seen in television and movies, gibbous moons are quite common in the actual night sky. The featured image was taken in Jmtland, Sweden near the end of last month. That gibbous moon turned, in a few days, into a crescent moon, and then a new moon, then back to a crescent, and a few days ago back to gibbous. And this same gibbous moon is visible again tonight, leading up to the Full Beaver Moon that occurs Friday night. Setting up to capture a picturesque gibbous moonscape, the photographer was quite surprised to find an airplane, surely well in the foreground, appearing to fly past it.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 July 3 - An Airplane in Front of the Moon
Explanation: If you look closely at the Moon, you will see a large airplane in front of it. Well, not always. OK, hardly ever. Actually, to capture an image like this takes precise timing, an exposure fast enough to freeze the airplane and not overexpose the Moon -- but slow enough to see both, a steady camera, and luck -- because not every plane that approaches the Moon crosses in front. Helpful equipment includes a camera with fast continuous video mode and a mount that automatically tracks the Moon. The featured fleeting superposition was captured from Seoul, South Korea two weeks ago during a daytime waxing gibbous moonrise. Within 1/10th of a second, the airplane crossing was over.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 June 13 - Red Cloudbow over Delaware
Explanation: What kind of rainbow is this? In this case, no rain was involved -- what is pictured is actually a red cloudbow. The unusual sky arc was spotted last month during sunset in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA. When the photographer realized that what he was seeing was extraordinary, he captured it with the only camera available -- a cell phone. Clouds are made of water droplets, and in a cloudbow a cloud-droplet group reflects back light from the bright Sun (or Moon) on the opposite side of the sky. Similar phenomena include fogbows and airplane glories. Here, the red color was caused by atmospheric air preferentially scattering away blue light -- which simultaneously makes most of the sky appear blue. A careful inspection reveals a supernumery bow just inside the outermost arc, a bow caused by quantum diffraction.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 April 15 - Space Shuttle Rising
Explanation: What's that rising from the clouds? The space shuttle. Sometimes, if you look out the window of an airplane at just the right time and place, you see something unusual -- in this case a space shuttle launching to orbit. The featured image of Endeavour's final launch in 2011 May was captured from a NASA shuttle training aircraft. Taken well above the clouds, the image can be matched with similar images of the same shuttle plume taken below the clouds. Hot glowing gasses expelled by the engines are visible near the rising shuttle, as well as a long smoke plume. A shadow of the plume appears on the cloud deck, indicating the direction of the Sun. The US Space Shuttle program concluded in 2011, and Endeavour can now be visited at the California Science Center. Planned for tomorrow, however, is a different launch -- that of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 October 1 - Concept Plane: Supersonic Green Machine
Explanation: What will passenger airplanes be like in the future? To help brainstorm desirable and workable attributes, NASA sponsors design competitions. Shown here is an artist's depiction of a concept plane that was suggested in 2010. This futuristic plane would be expected to achieve supersonic speeds, possibly surpassing the speeds of the supersonic transport planes that ran commercially in the late twentieth century. In terms of noise reduction, the future aircraft has been drawn featuring an inverted V wing stretched over its engines. The structure is intended to reduce the sound from annoying sonic booms. Additionally, future airplanes would aim to have relatively little impact on our environment, including green limits on pollution and fuel consumption. Aircraft utilizing similar design concepts might well become operational by the 2030s.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 September 24 - How to Identify that Light in the Sky
Explanation: What is that light in the sky? Perhaps one of humanity's more common questions, an answer may result from a few quick observations. For example -- is it moving or blinking? If so, and if you live near a city, the answer is typically an airplane, since planes are so numerous and so few stars and satellites are bright enough to be seen over the din of artificial city lights. If not, and if you live far from a city, that bright light is likely a planet such as Venus or Mars -- the former of which is constrained to appear near the horizon just before dawn or after dusk. Sometimes the low apparent motion of a distant airplane near the horizon makes it hard to tell from a bright planet, but even this can usually be discerned by the plane's motion over a few minutes. Still unsure? The featured chart gives a sometimes-humorous but mostly-accurate assessment. Dedicated sky enthusiasts will likely note -- and are encouraged to provide -- polite corrections.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 April 4 - Plane Contrail and Sun Halo
Explanation: What's happened to the sky? Several common features of the daytime sky are interacting in uncommon ways. First, well behind the silhouetted hills, is the typically bright Sun. In front of the Sun are thin clouds, possibly the home to a layer of hexagonal ice crystals that together are creating the 22 degree halo of light surrounding the Sun. The unusual bent line that crosses the image is a contrail -- a type of cloud created by a passing airplane. Much of the contrail must actually be further away than the thin cloud because it casts a shadow onto the cloud, giving an unusual three-dimensional quality to the featured image. The featured image was taken in late January in the city of Patras in West Greece.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 17 - Fly Me to the Moon
Explanation: No, this is not a good way to get to the Moon. What is pictured is a chance superposition of an airplane and the Moon. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, to the right of the plane, is the young Moon. This vast world shows only a sliver of itself because the Sun is nearly lined up behind it. Captured two weeks ago, the featured image was framed by an eerie maroon sky, too far from day to be blue, too far from night to be black. Within minutes the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon. The contrail dispersed. The Sun set. The Moon set. The sky faded to black, only to reveal thousands of stars that had been too faint to see through the rustic red din.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 1 - A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway
Explanation: Higher than the highest building, higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The featured wide-angle image, horizontally compressed, captured an unexpected auroral display that stretched across the sky five years ago over eastern Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 22 - An Airplane Glory
Explanation: Looking out the window of an airplane, you might be lucky enough to see "the glory" in the direction directly opposite the Sun. Before airplanes, the phenomenon, known to some as the heiligenschein or the Specter of the Brocken, was sometimes seen from mountaintops. There, when conditions were right, one could look away from the Sun and see what appeared to be the shadow of a giant surrounded by a bright halo. The giant turns out to be the observer, as in the modern version a silhouette of an airplane frequently occupies the glory's center. This bright glory was photographed two weeks ago over Michigan from an airplane on approach to O'Hare International Airport. The cause of the glory is still being researched and is relatively complex. Surely, small droplets of water in some way reflect, refract, and diffract sunlight backwards towards the Sun. The phenomenon has similar counterparts in other branches of science including astronomy, where looking out from the Earth in the direction opposite the Sun yields a bright spot called the gegenschein.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 November 7 - Inverted City Beneath Clouds
Explanation: How could that city be upside-down? The city, Chicago, was actually perfectly right-side up. The long shadows it projected onto nearby Lake Michigan near sunset, however, when seen in reflection, made the buildings appear inverted. This fascinating, puzzling, yet beautiful image was captured by a photographer in 2014 on an airplane on approach to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The Sun can be seen both above and below the cloud deck, with the latter reflected in the calm lake. As a bonus, if you look really closely -- and this is quite a challenge -- you can find another airplane in the image, likely also on approach to the same airport.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 8 - A Quadruple Sky Over Great Salt Lake
Explanation: This was a sky to show the kids. All in all, three children, three planets, the Moon, a star, an airplane and a mom were all captured in one image near Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA in early September of 2005. Minus the airplane and the quadruple on the ground, this busy quadruple coincidence sky was visible last week all over the world. The easiest object to spot is the crescent Moon, which is easily the brightest sky orb in the featured image. Venus is the highest planet in the sky, with Jupiter to its right. The bright star Spica completes the quadruple just below Venus. The streak on the far right is an airplane. Mom is seated. Grandpa, appreciating the beauty of the moment, took the picture. This week, the pre-dawn sky shows a similar conjunction of planets.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 May 24 - Space Shuttle Rising
Explanation: What's that rising from the clouds? The space shuttle. Sometimes, if you looked out the window of an airplane at just the right place and time, you could have seen something very unusual -- a space shuttle launching to orbit. Images of the rising shuttle and its plume became widely circulated over the web shortly after Endeavour's final launch in 2011 May. The above image was taken from a shuttle training aircraft by NASA and is not copyrighted. Taken well above the clouds, the image can be matched with similar images of the same shuttle plume taken below the clouds. Hot glowing gasses expelled by the engines are visible near the rising shuttle, as well as a long smoke plume. A shadow of the plume appears on the cloud deck, indicating the direction of the Sun. The US Space Shuttle program concluded in 2011, and Endeavour can now be visited at the California Science Center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 April 14 - Through the Shadow of the Moon
Explanation: What would it look like to fly through a total eclipse of the Sun? On a typical place on Earth in the path of the dark shadow of the Moon during a total eclipse, an observer would see the Moon cross the face of the Sun, completely blocking it for a few minutes. A particularly clear view of the darkness created on Earth during last month's total solar eclipse was captured by an aircraft flying through the Moon's umbral shadow. One second of time in the featured time-lapse video corresponds to about one minute of real time. The Moon's shadow comes in from the right and leaves on the left, all while locations on Earth outside the umbral shadow -- over 100 kilometers away -- remain partly sunlit. During the next solar eclipse in mid-September, the Moon will, at most, block only part of the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 October 29 - Iridescent Cloud Edge Over Colorado
Explanation: Sometimes your eclipse viewing goes bad in an interesting way. While watching and photographing last Thursday's partial solar eclipse, a popular astronomy blogger suffered through long periods of clouds blocking the Sun. Unexpectedly, however, a nearby cloud began to show a rare effect: iridescence. Frequently part of a more familiar solar corona effect, iridescence is the diffraction of sunlight around a thin screen of nearly uniformly-sized water droplets. Different colors of the sunlight become deflected by slightly different angles and so come to the observer from slightly different directions. This display, featured here, was quite bright and exhibited an unusually broad range of colors. On the right, the contrails of an airplane are also visible.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 October 27 - Plane, Clouds, Moon, Spots, Sun
Explanation: What's that in front of the Sun? The closest object is an airplane, visible just below the Sun's center and caught purely by chance. Next out are numerous clouds in Earth's atmosphere, creating a series of darkened horizontal streaks. Farther out is Earth's Moon, seen as the large dark circular bite on the upper right. Just above the airplane and just below the Sun's surface are sunspots. The main sunspot group captured here, AR 2192, is one of the largest ever recorded and has been crackling and bursting with flares since it came around the edge of the Sun early last week. Taken last Thursday, this show of solar silhouettes was unfortunately short-lived. Within a few seconds the plane flew away. Within a few minutes the clouds drifted off. Within a few hours the partial solar eclipse of the Sun by the Moon was over. Only the sunspot group remains, but within a few more days even AR 2192 will disappear around the edge of the Sun. Fortunately, when it comes to the Sun, even unexpected alignments are surprisingly frequent.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 June 9 - How to Identify that Light in the Sky
Explanation: What is that light in the sky? Perhaps one of humanity's more common questions, an answer may result from a few quick observations. For example -- is it moving or blinking? If so, and if you live near a city, the answer is typically an airplane, since planes are so numerous and so few stars and satellites are bright enough to be seen over the din of artificial city lights. If not, and if you live far from a city, that bright light is likely a planet such as Venus or Mars -- the former of which is constrained to appear near the horizon just before dawn or after dusk. Sometimes the low apparent motion of a distant airplane near the horizon makes it hard to tell from a bright planet, but even this can usually be discerned by the plane's motion over a few minutes. Still unsure? The above chart gives a sometimes-humorous but mostly-accurate assessment. Dedicated sky enthusiasts will likely note -- and are encouraged to provide -- polite corrections.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 March 21 - Star Trails over El Capitan
Explanation: Towering 3,000 feet from base to summit, the famous granite face of El Capitan in Earth's Yosemite National Park just hides the planet's north celestial pole in this skyscape. Of course, the north celestial pole is at the center of all the star trails. Their short arcs reflecting the planet's daily rotation on its axis are traced in a digital stack of 36 sequential exposures. Linear trails of passing airplane navigation lights and a flare from car lights along the road below are also captured in the sequential stack. But the punctuated trail of light seen against the sheer El Capitan itself follows a climbing team on the night of November 8, 2013. The team is ascending toward the summit along The Nose, a historic rock climbing route.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 January 14 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from last year is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Las Campanas Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. Notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades star cluster, the California Nebula, the belt of Orion just below the Orion Nebula and inside Barnard's Loop, and bright stars Rigel and Betelgeuse. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 13 - Partial Solar Eclipse with Airplane
Explanation: It was just eight minutes after sunrise, last week, and already there were four things in front of the Sun. The largest and most notable was Earth's Moon, obscuring a big chunk of the Sun's lower limb as it moved across the solar disk, as viewed from Fremantle, Australia. This was expected as the image was taken during a partial solar eclipse -- an eclipse that left sunlight streaming around all sides of the Moon from some locations. Next, a band of clouds divided the Sun horizontally while showing interesting internal structure vertically. The third intervening body might be considered to be the Earth's atmosphere, as it dimmed the Sun from its higher altitude brightness while density fluctuations caused the Sun's edges to appear to shimmer. Although closest to the photographer, the least expected solar occulter was an airplane. Quite possibly, passengers on both sides of that airplane were contemplating the unusual view only visible out the eastern-facing windows.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 February 25 - Fly Me to the Moons
Explanation: Sometimes the Moon is a busy direction. Last week, for example, our very Moon passed in front of the planet Jupiter. While capturing this unusual spectacle from New South Wales, Australia, a quick-thinking astrophotographer realized that a nearby plane might itself pass in front of the Moon, and so quickly reset his camera to take a continuous series of short duration shots. As hoped, for a brief instant, that airplane, the Moon, and Jupiter were all visible in a single exposure, which is shown above. But the project was not complete -- a longer exposure was then taken to bring up three of the Jupiter's own moons: Io, Callisto, and Europa (from left to right). Unfortunately, this triple spectacle soon disappeared. Less than a second later, the plane flew away from the Moon. A few seconds after that, the Moon moved to cover all of Jupiter. A few minutes after that, Jupiter reappeared on the other side of the Moon, and even a few minutes after that the Moon moved completely away from Jupiter. Although hard to catch, planes cross in front of the Moon quite frequently, but the Moon won't eclipse Jupiter again for another three years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 2 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from 2008 October is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. In the foreground are several of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes, while notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy toward the lower left and the Pleiades star cluster just above the horizon. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 12 - Meteor and Moonbow over Wallaman Falls
Explanation: Which feature takes your breath away first in this encompassing panorama of land and sky? The competition is strong with a waterfall, meteor, starfield, and even a moonbow all vying for attention. It is interesting to first note, though, what can't be seen -- a rising moon on the other side of the camera. The bright moon not only illuminated this beautiful landscape in Queensland, Australia last June, but also created the beautiful moonbow seen in front of Wallaman Falls. Just above the ridge in the above image is the horizontal streak of an airplane. Toward the top of the frame is the downward streak of a bright meteor, a small pebble from across our Solar System that lit up as it entered the Earth's atmosphere. Well behind the meteor are numerous bright stars and nebula seen toward the center of our Galaxy. Finally, far in the background, is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, running diagonally from the lower left to the upper right in the image but also circling the entire sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 September 5 - Airglow Over Germany
Explanation: Does air glow? It does, but it is usually hard to see. When conditions are right, however, a faint glow about 90 kilometers up can be observed, most easily with a wide-angle long-duration camera exposure. The same airglow can also frequently be seen looking down -- in pictures taken from Earth orbit -- as a faint arc hovering above the surface. Pictured above between the beige clouds, above the curving Earth, behind the streaking airplane, and in front of the sparkling stars are some green bands of airglow. The glow is predominantly created by the excitation of atoms by ultraviolet light from the Sun, with the bands resulting from density fluctuations caused by upward moving atmospheric gravity waves. The above image was taken in mid-July above Weikersheim, Germany. Lightning and aurorae can also cause air to glow, but result from particle collisions and are more fleeting.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 June 3 - A Picturesque Venus Transit
Explanation: The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was one of the better-photographed events in sky history. Both scientific and artistic images flooded in from the areas that could see the transit: Europe and much of Asia, Africa, and North America. Scientifically, solar photographers confirmed that the black drop effect is really better related to the viewing clarity of the camera or telescope than the atmosphere of Venus. Artistically, images might be divided into several categories. One type captures the transit in front of a highly detailed Sun. Another category captures a double coincidence such as both Venus and an airplane simultaneously silhouetted, or Venus and the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. A third image type involves a fortuitous arrangement of interesting looking clouds, as shown by example in the above image taken from North Carolina, USA. Sky enthusiasts worldwide are abuzz about the coming transit of Venus on Tuesday. It is perhaps interesting to wonder whether any person will live to see -- and remember seeing -- both Tuesday's Venus transit and the next one in 2117.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 April 18 - The Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour
Explanation: What would it be like to fly a space shuttle? Although the last of NASA's space shuttles has now been retired, it is still fun to contemplate sitting at the controls of one of the humanity's most sophisticated machines. Pictured above is the flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour, the youngest shuttle and the second to last ever launched. The numerous panels and displays allowed the computer-controlled orbiter to enter the top of Earth's atmosphere at greater than the speed of sound and -- just thirty minutes later -- land on a runway like an airplane. The retired space shuttles are now being sent to museums, with Endeavour being sent to California Space Center in Los Angeles, California, Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, Florida, and Discovery to the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. Therefore sitting in a shuttle pilot's chair and personally contemplating the thrill of human space flight may actually be in your future.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 3 - A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway
Explanation: Higher than the highest building, higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The above wide angle image, horizontally compressed, captured an unexpected auroral display that stretched across the sky one month ago over eastern Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 October 16 - A Picturesque Venus Transit
Explanation: The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was one of the better-photographed events in sky history. Both scientific and artistic images flooded in from the areas that could see the transit: Europe and much of Asia, Africa, and North America. Scientifically, solar photographers confirmed that the black drop effect is really better related to the viewing clarity of the camera or telescope than the atmosphere of Venus. Artistically, images might be divided into several categories. One type captures the transit in front of a highly detailed Sun. Another category captures a double coincidence such as both Venus and an airplane simultaneously silhouetted, or Venus and the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. A third image type involves a fortuitous arrangement of interesting looking clouds, as shown by example in the above image taken from North Carolina, USA. The next transit of Venus across the Sun will be in 2012 June.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 August 1 - Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit
Explanation: What's that strange bright streak? It is the last image ever of a space shuttle from orbit. A week and a half ago, after decoupling from the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle Atlantis fired its rockets for the last time, lost its orbital speed, and plummeted back to Earth. Within the next hour, however, the sophisticated space machine dropped its landing gear and did what used to be unprecedented -- landed like an airplane on a runway. Although the future of human space flight from the USA will enter a temporary lull, many robotic spacecraft continue to explore our Solar System and peer into our universe, including Cassini, Chandra, Chang'e 2, Dawn, Fermi, Hubble, Kepler, LRO, Mars Express, Messenger, MRO, New Horizons, Opportunity, Planck, Rosetta, SDO, SOHO, Spitzer, STEREO, Swift, Venus-Express, and WISE.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 July 24 - A Flight of Helios
Explanation: An example of solar-powered flight, NASA's Helios aircraft flew almost one hundred years after the Wright brothers' historic flight on December 17, 1903. Pictured here at 3,000 meters in in skies northwest of Kauai, Hawaii, USA in August 2001, the remotely piloted Helios is traveling at about 40 kilometers per hour. Essentially an ultralight flying wing with 14 electric motors, the aircraft was built by AeroVironment Inc. Covered with solar cells, Helios' impressive 247 foot wide wing exceeded the wing span and even overall length of a Boeing 747 jet airliner. Climbing during daylight hours, the prototype aircraft ultimately reached an altitude just short of 30,000 meters, breaking records for non-rocket powered flight. Helios was intended as a technology demonstrator, but in the extremely thin air 30,000 meters above Earth's surface, the flight of Helios also approached conditions for winged flight in the atmosphere of Mars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 May 25 - Space Shuttle Rising
Explanation: What's that rising from the clouds? The space shuttle. If you looked out the window of an airplane at just the right place and time last week, you could have seen something very unusual -- the space shuttle Endeavour launching to orbit. Images of the rising shuttle and its plume became widely circulated over the web shortly after Endeavour's final launch. The above image was taken from a shuttle training aircraft and is not copyrighted. Taken well above the clouds, the image can be matched with similar images of the same shuttle plume taken below the clouds. Hot glowing gasses expelled by the engines are visible near the rising shuttle, as well as a long smoke plume. A shadow of the plume appears on the cloud deck, indicating the direction of the Sun. The shuttle Endeavour remains docked with the International Space Station and is currently scheduled to return to Earth next week.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 April 17 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalaya mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "forehead of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 January 7 - Sunset, Moonset
Explanation: Seen from central and northern Asia, the Sun and New Moon set together on January 4, in a partial solar eclipse. Close to its maximum phase, the eclipse is captured near the moment of sunset in this wintry scene from the bank of the Berd River near Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia. An evocative view in fading light, the picture looks toward the western horizon across a snowy, frozen landscape. Along with offset Sun and Moon, the dimly lit sky includes an industrial smoke plume and airplane contrail.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 November 17 - Frosted Leaf Orion
Explanation: Sometimes, you can put some night sky in your art. Captured above Japan earlier this month, a picturesque night sky was photographed behind a picturesque frosted leaf. The reflecting ice crystals on the leaf coolly mimic the shining stars far in the background. The particular background sky on this 48-second wide angle exposure, however, might appear quite interesting and familiar. On the far left, although hard to find, appears a streaking meteor. Below and to the right of the meteor appears a longer and brighter streak of an airplane. The bright star on the left is the dog-star Sirius, the brightest star on the night sky. To Sirius' right appears the constellation of Orion, including the three linear belt stars below the red giant Betelgeuse. The bright patch of light further to the right is the Pleiades open star cluster. Similar views including the constellation Orion can be seen above much of the northern hemisphere for the next several months, although you might have to provide your own leaf.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 October 20 - Venus Just After Sunset
Explanation: Is that Venus or an airplane? A common ponderable for sky enthusiasts is deciding if that bright spot near the horizon is the planet Venus. Usually, an airplane will show itself by moving significantly in a few moments. Venus will set only slowly as the Earth turns. Still, the identification would be easier if Venus did not keep shifting its position each night. Pictured above, Venus was captured on 44 different nights during 2006 and 2007 over the Bolu mountains in Turkey, when Earth's sister planet appeared exclusively in the evening sky. The average spacing of the images was about five days, while the images were always taken with the Sun about seven degrees below the horizon. That bright spot toward the west in your evening sky this month might be neither Venus nor an airplane, but Mars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 September 29 - An Airplane in Front of the Moon
Explanation: If you look closely at the Moon, you will see a large airplane in front of it. Well, not always. OK, hardly ever. But if you wait for days with your camera attached to a Moon tracker in a place where airplanes are known to pass, you might catch a good photograph of it. Well, if you're lucky. OK, extremely lucky. The above image was taken two weeks ago over South East Queensland, Australia using an exposure time of 1/250th of a second and, in the words of the photographer, "a nerve of steel".

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 September 20 - Aurora Over Norway
Explanation: Auroras can make spectacular sights. Photographed above last weekend, flowing multi-colored auroras helped illuminate a busy sky above Troms, Norway. Besides the spectacular aurora pictured above, the photographer caught three satellites streaks, one airplane streak, and a friend trying to capture the same sight. Although auroras might first appear to be moonlit clouds, they only add light to the sky and do not block background stars from view. Called northern lights in the northern hemisphere, auroras are caused by collisions between charged particles from the magnetosphere and air molecules high in the Earth's atmosphere. If viewed from space, auroras can be seen to glow in X-ray and ultraviolet light as well. Predictable auroras might occur a few days after a powerful magnetic event has been seen on the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 July 7 - Concept Plane: Supersonic Green Machine
Explanation: What will passenger airplanes be like in the future? To help brain storm desirable and workable attributes, NASA sponsors design competitions. Shown here is an artist's depiction of a concept plane that has been recently suggested. This futuristic plane would be expected to achieve supersonic speeds, possibly surpassing the speeds of the supersonic transport planes that ran commercially in the late twentieth century. In terms of noise reduction, the future aircraft has been drawn featuring an inverted V wing stretched over its engines. The structure is intended to reduce the sound from annoying sonic booms. Additionally, future airplanes would aim to have relatively little impact on our environment, including green limits on pollution and fuel consumption. Aircraft utilizing similar design concepts might well become operational by the 2030s.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 May 26 - Clouds and Stars over Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador
Explanation: What's happening above the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador? Quite a bit, from the looks of the above one-night, time-lapse movie, taken earlier this month. The majestic volcano is first seen through breaks in fast moving clouds as the movie begins. Soon the clouds have dissipated and a sky filled with stars seems to rotate about the snow-peaked volcano's peak. The band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the dark Coal Sack nebula, and the Southern Cross can all be seen overhead. Satellites streak by from several directions. Soon thin clouds roll by and seem to make the brightest stars sparkle. On the volcano (starting at about 1:13 of the movie), the lights of climbers flash. Near the end of the movie, a bright airplane passes over the peak with a residual trail seen drifting away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 April 12 - Mercury and Venus Over Paris
Explanation: Go outside tonight and see one of the more interesting planetary conjunctions of recent years. Just after sunset, the planets Mercury and Venus are visible quite near each other. Now Venus, being commonly discernible as one of the brightest objects in the sky, is frequently mistaken for an airplane. (Venus will set quite slowly, though.) Mercury, however, is dimmer and usually harder to find. Recently, though, Mercury can be found just to the right of Venus, appearing increasingly below the brighter planet over the next week. Pictured above, Venus and Mercury were imaged next to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. A careful inspection of the image will further reveal that the bright object nearly below Venus is iconic Eiffel Tower.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 February 6 - Hong Kong Sky
Explanation: This remarkable scene combines multiple exposures recorded on the evening of January 18th from a waterside perspective in Hong Kong, China. It follows a young crescent Moon, with brilliant planet Jupiter to its left, as they set together in the western sky. Their two luminous trails are faintly paralleled by trails of background stars. But easier to pick out are the short, bright airplane trails converging toward the horizon and the Hong Kong International Airport that seem to offer a frenzied imitation of the celestial tracks. Of course, the reflection of city lights and boat traffic follows the water's surface. Streaking car lights define the span of the cable-stayed Ting Kau bridge.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 24 - Morning Glory Clouds Over Australia
Explanation: What causes these long, strange clouds? No one is sure. A rare type of cloud known as a Morning Glory cloud can stretch 1,000 kilometers long and occur at altitudes up to two kilometers high. Although similar roll clouds have been seen at specific places across the world, the ones over Burketown, Queensland Australia occur predictably every spring. Long, horizontal, circulating tubes of air might form when flowing, moist, cooling air encounters an inversion layer, an atmospheric layer where air temperature atypically increases with height. These tubes and surrounding air could cause dangerous turbulence for airplanes when clear. Morning Glory clouds can reportedly achieve an airspeed of 60 kilometers per hour over a surface with little discernible wind. Pictured above, photographer Mick Petroff photographed some Morning Glory clouds from his airplane near the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 April 2 - 100 Hours of Astronomy Begins
Explanation: Today, 100 Hours of Astronomy begins, a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's original telescopic exploration of the sky. Running from April 2 through April 5, many different public programs are planned worldwide as part of the project, starting with today's opening event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Featuring one of Galileo's two remaining telescopes, the event will be webcast live. Of course, the sky examined by Galileo can still be appreciated today, with much more capable instruments that are widely available. But this skyward view from a private observatory in Veszprem, Hungary also includes objects Galileo did not see when he gazed into the night. Recorded on March 26, the image captures the paired trails of the International Space Station (the brighter trail) and the shuttle orbiter Discovery in low Earth orbit, as well as the streak of a passing airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 17 - Unusual Red Glow Over Minnesota
Explanation: What in heaven's blazes is that? When landing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA in 2002, just before his flight ascended above cloud level in the early evening, passenger Tyler Blessing saw and photographed "huge curved sheets of glowing light extending from cloud to ground." The glow appeared unlike other unusual lights more typically seen, including crepuscular rays, anticrepuscular rays and the glory. A leading possibility, mentioned initially by the photographer, is that the light sheets are setting sunlight scattered off of falling rain. Alternatively, the phenomenon could just be a peculiar window reflection. APOD readers, who have previously shown an impressive ability to pool their collective intelligence to create a better understanding of photographed sky anomalies, are invited to discuss this online. It might help to know that EXIF data indicates that the image was captured on 2002 September 23 at about 8:07 pm in the evening (local time), and that the camera was reported to be pointing north of west at that time. The oval on the ground, visible in the lower right of the above image, is Canterbury Downs race track.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 1 - Auroral Corona Over Norway
Explanation: Higher than highest communications tower, higher than highest mountain, higher than highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. This particularly rare purple auroral corona occurred in 2004 high above Harstad, Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 January 13 - Largest Full Moon of 2009
Explanation: A larger moon will not be seen this year. This past weekend, the largest full Moon of 2009 could be seen from almost any clear location on planet Earth at night. The large angular extent of the full Moon was caused by the Moon being unusually close to Earth during its full phase. Because the Moon circles the Earth in an elliptical orbit, its angular size depends on how close the Moon is to closest approach (perigee) or farthest distance (apogee). Even so, the Moon's was only about 15 percent larger in area and brightness than a more typical full Moon. In this image, a dramatically positioned Moon is seen rising above the Alps from Breil-sur-Roya in the southeast of France. Taken with an ordinary digital camera but extraordinary timing, the image also captured a crossing jet plane. The last full Moon, in 2008 December, was the largest full moon of 2008.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 August 30 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalaya mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "forehead of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 June 4 - Chasing the ISS
Explanation: Bathed in sunlight, the International Space Station (ISS) arced through the evening sky above the town of Lauffen in southern Germany on May 31st. The timing of the bright passage was about 10 minutes after the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-124 mission from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in the southeastern US. Of course, Discovery was headed toward an orbital rendezvous with the ISS. In chasing after the space station, the shuttle also made a pass over Lauffen just 21 minutes after launch. With a camera fixed to a tripod, astronomer Jürgen Michelberger recorded both magnificent machines streaking overhead in two different time exposures, each about 2 minutes long, and merged them in this composite view. Parallax causes the paths of the ISS (right) and Discovery (near center) to seem to diverge as they were at very different altitudes. Stars (and bright planets) leave two, separated, short trails. The brief, flaring track of an Iridium satellite and faint dotted trail of a passing airplane are also visible. A close inspection will reveal a dim reddish track, the jettisoned external fuel tank, just left of Discovery. Placing your cursor over the picture should help identify some of the features.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 7 - The Gegenschein Over Chile
Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from last October is one of the most spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. In the foreground are several of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes, while notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy toward the lower left and the Pleiades star cluster just above the horizon. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 29 - Airplane Flight Patterns over the USA
Explanation: What are these Earthlings going? Millions of people move about planet Earth by airplane every day. Hundreds of thousands of airplane flights take place over the US every day. A dramatic graphical depiction of these flights was created by Aaron Koblin and is shown above. Clicking on the above image will bring up a movie in many web browsers, a movie that might better be visible here. The movie depicts flight patterns that occurred over a few days in 2005 March. The count on the lower left shows the number of USA-related flights at the time listed on the lower right. The trails shown are not contrails but rather generated artificially by a computer algorithm. Major cities in North America and the USA are discernable. Inspection of the movie shows that some times of the day are busier than others, indicating that flights leave some destinations at times that are convenient for travelers. In terms of distance, flying to a distant location is much safer than driving to that location. Flying in an airplane, however, remains slightly more dangerous than driving to a nearby airport.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 January 7 - Quadrantid Meteors and Aurora from the Air
Explanation: Where do meteor showers originate? To help answer this question, astronomers studied in some detail the Quadrantid meteor shower that occurred over this past weekend. In particular, astronomers with specialized cameras flew as part of the Quadrantid's Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign (MAC) aboard a Gulfstream V aircraft above northern Canada over the past few days and studied the Quadrantid meteor shower in unprecedented detail. Pictured above is a composite image combining many short exposures. Visible in the image are the wingtip of the airplane reflecting a red beacon on the left, green aurora most prominent on the image right, and numerous meteor streaks throughout. Preliminary indications are that the meteor stream is quite stable in time but variable in meteor abundance. Over 100 meteors per hour were visible at the peak from the MAC aircraft. Meteor data from around the world will continue to be analyzed to try to verify Peter Jenniskens's recent hypothesis that minor planet 2003 EH1 is an intermittently active comet and the parent body of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 August 25 - Just Passing Through
Explanation: M33 is a big, beautiful spiral galaxy a mere 3 million light-years away, understandably a popular target for enthusiastic astro-imagers. Just as understandably, interfering satellite trails and airplane streaks that are becoming more common in planet Earth's busy night sky are processed out of their finished images. But Robert Stephan left these streaks in his final picture of M33, realizing that he had also recorded something relatively rare. His otherwise cosmic skyscape shows the tail of an aircraft passing overhead through his telescope's field of view. A navigational strobe light on the plane flashed across the tail at exactly the right moment. The brief illumination produced the incongruous, though remarkably sharp image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 August 19 - A Sonic Boom
Explanation: Is this what a sonic boom looks like? When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets. Above, an F/A-18 Hornet was photographed just as it broke the sound barrier. Large meteors and the space shuttle frequently produce audible sonic booms before they are slowed below sound speed by the Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 June 5 - Jet Approaching a Crescent Moon
Explanation: No natural clouds appear in this picture. On the left, an airplane cruises through the atmosphere leaving a contrail in its wake. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright orange hue. Far in the distance, to the right of the plane, is the young Moon. This vast world shows only a sliver of itself because the Sun is nearly lined up behind it. The above image is framed by an eerie gray sky, too far from day to be blue, too far from night to be black. Within minutes the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon. The contrail dispersed. The Sun set. The Moon set. The sky faded to black, only to reveal thousands of stars that had been hiding below the gray din.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 April 9 - Aurora Over Alaska
Explanation: Higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Aurora rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from solar shockwave causing energetic electrons and protons to striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The above digitally enhanced photograph was taken in 2005 January shows a spectacular aurora borealis above the frozen landscape of Bear Lake, Alaska, USA. The above image was voted Wikipedia Commons Picture of the Year for 2006.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 April 8 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalayan mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "forehead of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 December 26 - The Gegenschein
Explanation: If you look carefully enough, you can even see the glow of the Sun in the opposite direction. At night this glow is known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow"), and can be seen as a faint glow in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above, the gegenschein is seen superposed toward the constellation of Pisces. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 22 - A Smoke Angel from Airplane Flares
Explanation: What type of cloud is that? It is not a naturally occurring one. Looking perhaps a bit like a gigantic owl monster, the cloud pictured above resulted from a series of flares released by an air force jet over the Atlantic Ocean in May. The jet that released the flares, a C-17 Globemaster III, is seen on the right. The flares release smoke and the resulting pattern is sometimes known as a smoke angel. The circular eyes of the above smoke angel are caused by air spiraling off the plane's wings and are known as wingtip vortices.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 February 1 - Venus Just After Sunset
Explanation: Is that Venus or an airplane? A common ponderable for sky enthusiasts is deciding if that bright spot near the horizon is the planet Venus. Usually, an airplane will show itself by moving significantly in a few moments. Venus will set only slowly as the Earth turns. Still, the identification would be easier if Venus did not keep shifting its position each night. Pictured above, Venus was captured 38 different nights during 2005 and 2006 over Bursa, Turkey, when Earth's sister planet appeared exclusively in the evening sky. The average spacing of the images was about five days, while the images were always taken with the Sun about 7 degrees below the horizon. Venus' orbit around the Sun will now confine it to Earth's morning sky until October 2006.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 September 13 - A Quadruple Sky Over Great Salt Lake
Explanation: This was a sky to show the kids. All in all, three children, three planets, the Moon, a star, an airplane and a mom were all captured in one image near Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA on September 6. Minus the airplane and the quadruple on the ground, this busy quadruple coincidence sky was visible last week all over the world. The easiest object to spot is the crescent Moon, which is easily the brightest sky orb in the above image. Venus is the highest planet in the sky, with Jupiter to its right. The bright star Spica completes the quadruple just below Venus. The streak on the far right is an airplane. Mom is seated. Grandpa, appreciating the beauty of the moment, took the picture.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 May 13 - When the Moon Was Young
Explanation: Remember when the Moon was young? It was just last Monday. On May 9th, this slender crescent Moon was recorded at a tender age of 34 hours and 18 minutes. Well, OK ... when calculating the lunar age during a lunation or complete cycle of phases - from New Moon to Full Moon and back to New Moon again - the Moon never gets more than around 29.5 days old. Still, a young Moon can be a rewarding sight, even for casual skygazers, though the slim crescent is relatively faint and only easy to see low in the west as the sky grows dark after sunset. Sighting this young Moon last Monday, lucky astronomer Stefan Seip was also treated to a very dramatic telescopic view of an airliner flying in front of the distant sunlit crescent. At a high altitude, the jet's stunning contrails reflect the strongly reddened light of the Sun setting below the western horizon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 11 - Clouds, Plane, Sun, Eclipse
Explanation: How can part of the Sun just disappear? When that part is really hiding behind the Moon. Last Friday, the first partial solar eclipse of 2005 and the last total eclipse of the Sun until March 2006 was visible. During a solar eclipse, the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned. The total solar eclipse was primarily visible from the Southern Pacific Ocean, while a partial solar eclipse was discoverable across South America and lower North America. The above image composite was taken with a handheld digital camera last Friday. After a day of rain in Mt. Holly, North Carolina, USA, a partially eclipsed Sun momentarily peeked through a cloudy sky. After taking a sequence of images, the best eclipse shot was digitally combined with a less good eclipse shot that featured a passing airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 March 6 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalayan mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "forehead of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 November 8 - Jupiter and Venus at Sunrise
Explanation: What are those bright objects in the morning sky? Early morning dog walkers, among many others across our world's Northern Hemisphere, have likely noticed tremendously bright Venus hanging in the eastern sky just before sunrise. Looking a bit like an approaching airplane, Venus holds its place in the sky and never seems to land. Last week, impressive but less bright Jupiter appeared within a degree of the Venusian orb, creating a dazzling sky that you might appreciate a bit more than your dog. This night sky early show will change slightly over the next week, with the planets moving past each other, Mars moving into the picture, guest stars like Spica appearing to shift in the background, and even a crescent Moon stopping in for a cameo. Pictured above last week, Jupiter and Venus were photographed rising before the Sun over the city of Bursa, Turkey.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 October 13 - Contrail Clutter over Georgia
Explanation: Artificial clouds made by humans may become so common they change the Earth's climate. The long thin cloud streaks that dominate the above satellite photograph of Georgia are contrails, cirrus clouds created by airplanes. The exhaust of an airplane engine can create a contrail by saturating the surrounding air with extra moisture. The wings of a plane can similarly create contrails by dropping the temperature and causing small ice-crystals to form. Contrails have become more than an oddity - they may be significantly increasing the cloudiness of Earth, reflecting sunlight back into space by day, and heat radiation back to Earth even at night. The effect on climate is a topic of much research. You can help NASA measure the actual abundance of contrails by participating in a contrail counting exercise that runs over the next two days.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 October 5 - SpaceShipOne Wins the X Prize
Explanation: Human space flight has entered the domain of private companies. Previously, large countries like the US and Russia have hired privately owned civilian companies to do specific tasks in support of their public human space flight programs. Yesterday, however, the solely corporate SpaceShipOne soared 100 kilometers above the Earth for the second time in two weeks to claim the coveted $10 million dollar X-Prize put forward by Ansari to inspire private space flight development. The X-prize was modeled after the Orteig prize that was designed to inspire ocean-crossing airplane flights and won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The impressive success of SpaceShipOne, designed by a team led by engineer Burt Rutan, could usher in a new age of inexpensive commercial space flights that includes space tourism and an increased presence of humans in space. Scaled Composite's SpaceShipOne is pictured soaring high above the Earth in a practice run last December.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 September 28 - Aurora Over a Communications Tower
Explanation: Higher than highest communications tower, higher than highest mountain, higher than highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. Pictured above is a particularly rare purple auroral corona that occurred on August 30, high above Harstad, Norway.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 June 23 - A Picturesque Venus Transit
Explanation: The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun earlier this month was one of the better-photographed events in sky history. Both scientific and artistic images have been flooding in from the areas that could see the transit: Europe and much of Asia, Africa, and North America. Scientifically, solar photographers confirmed that the black drop effect is really better related to the viewing clarity of the camera or telescope than the atmosphere of Venus. Artistically, images might be divided into several categories. One type captures the transit in front of a highly detailed Sun. Another category captures a double coincidence such as both Venus and an airplane simultaneously silhouetted, or Venus and the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. A third image type involves a fortuitous arrangement of interesting looking clouds, as shown by example in the above image taken from North Carolina, USA. There the distant orb of giant Venus might have been mistaken, at first glance, for a small but unusually circular cloud.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 February 9 - Announcing Comet C 2002 T7 LINEAR
Explanation: A newly discovered comet may outshine most stars in the sky by May. Designated Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), the comet was discovered in 2002 October by project LINEAR. Many reports already place the comet as brighter than magnitude 7, meaning that it can now be seen with binoculars. Reports also indicate the comet already has a visible tail nearly the length of a full Moon. Since predicting the future brightness of comets is a very tricky business, there remains the possibility that T7 might never become visible to the unaided eye. Alternatively, another comet, C/2001 Q4 (NEAT), may also reach naked eye visibility at nearly the same time, making 2004 April and May two of the busiest bright-comet months in centuries. Comet T7 can be seen on the above right on January 20, while an airplane trail is visible on the left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 January 12 - A Hole Punch Cloud Over Alabama
Explanation: What could create a huge hole in the clouds? Such a hole, likely hundreds of meters across, was photographed last month from a driveway near Mobile, Alabama, USA. Very unusual to see, hole-punch clouds like this are still the topic of meteorological speculation. A leading hypothesis holds that the hole-punch cloud is caused by falling ice-crystals. The ice-crystals could originate in a higher cloud or be facilitated by a passing airplane exhaust. If the air has just the right temperature and moisture content, the falling crystals will absorb water from the air and grow. For this to happen, the water must be so cold that all it needs is a surface to freeze on. The moisture lost from the air increases the evaporation rate from the cloud water droplets so they dissipate to form the hole. The now heavier ice crystals continue to fall and form the more tenuous wispy cloud-like virga seen inside and just below the hole. Water and ice from the virga evaporates before they reach the ground.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 October 1 - An Unusual Event Over South Wales
Explanation: Jon Burnett, a teenager from South Wales, UK, was photographing some friends skateboarding last week when the sky did something very strange. By diverting his camera, he was able to document this rare sky event and capture one of the more spectacular sky images yet recorded. Roughly four minutes later, he took another picture of the dispersing trail. What is it? Experts disagree. The first guess was a sofa-sized rock that exploded as a daytime fireball, but perhaps a better hypothesis is an unusual airplane contrail reflecting the setting Sun. Bright fireballs occur over someplace on Earth nearly every day. A separate bolide, likely even more dramatic, struck India only a few days ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 31 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalayan mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "forehead of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 May 4 - A Sonic Boom
Explanation: Many people have heard a sonic boom, but few have seen one. When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets. Above, an F/A-18 Hornet was photographed just as it broke the sound barrier. Large meteors and the space shuttle frequently produce audible sonic booms before they are slowed below sound speed by the Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 July 23 - The View from Everest
Explanation: What would it be like to stand atop the tallest mountain on Earth? To see a full panoramic vista from there, scroll right. Visible are snow peaked mountains near and far, tremendous cliffs, distant plateaus, the tops of clouds, and a dark blue sky. Mt. Everest stands 8.85 kilometers above sea level, roughly the maximum height reached by international airplane flights, but much less than the 300 kilometers achieved by a space shuttle. Hundreds of people have tried and failed to climb the behemoth by foot, a feat first accomplished successfully in 1953. About 1000 people have now made it to the summit. Roddy Mackenzie, who climbed the mountain in 1989, captured the above image. Mt. Everest lies in the Himalayan mountains in the country of Nepal. In the native language of Nepal, the mountain's name is "Sagarmatha" which means "goddess of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 April 17 - The Glory
Explanation: Looking out the window of an airplane, you might be lucky enough to see "the glory" in the direction directly opposite the Sun. Before airplanes, the phenomenon, known to some as the heiligenschein or the Specter of the Brocken, was sometimes seen from mountaintops. There, when conditions were right, one could look away from the Sun and see what appeared to be the shadow of a giant surrounded by a bright halo. The giant turns out to be the observer, as in the modern version a silhouette of an plane frequently occupies the glory's center. Pictured above, several concentric rings of the glory were photographed. The cause of the glory has only been understood recently and is relatively complex. Briefly, small droplets of water reflect, refract, and diffract sunlight backwards towards the Sun. The phenomenon has similar counterparts in other branches of science including astronomy, where the looking out from the Earth in the direction opposite the Sun yields a bright spot called the gegenschein.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 31 - A Year of Dark Cosmology
Explanation: We live in the exciting time when humanity discovers the nature of our entire universe. During this year, in particular, however, the quest for cosmological understanding appears to have astronomers groping in the dark. Dark matter and dark energy are becoming accepted invisible components of our universe, much like oxygen and nitrogen have become established invisible components of Earth-bound air. In comprehending the nature and origin of the formerly invisible, however, we are only just exiting the cosmological dark age. Relatively unexplored concepts such as higher spatial dimensions, string theories of fundamental particles, quintessence, and new forms of inflation all vie for cornerstone roles in a more complete theory. As understanding invisible air has led to such useful inventions as the airplane and the oxygen mask, perhaps understanding dark matter and dark energy can lead to even more spectacular and useful inventions. Pictured above, three of the largest optical telescopes (Keck I, Keck II, and Subaru) prepare to peer into the dark and distant universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 April 12 - STS-1: First Shuttle Launch
Explanation: On April 12, 1981, twenty years ago today, the space shuttle orbiter Columbia became the first shuttle to orbit the Earth. In this gorgeous time exposure, flood lights play on the Columbia and service structures (left) as it rests atop Complex 39's Pad A at Kennedy Space Center in preparation for first launch. Flown by Commander John W. Young and Pilot Robert L. Crippen, Columbia spent 2 days aloft on its check-out mission, STS-1, which ended in a smooth landing, airplane-style, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Ferried back to Kennedy by a modified Boeing 747, Columbia was launched again seven months later on STS-2, becoming the first piloted reuseable orbiter. The oldest operating shuttle orbiter, Columbia's 1981 debut was followed by Challenger in 1982 (destroyed in 1986), Discovery in 1983, Atlantis in 1985, and Challenger's replacement Endeavour in 1991. This shuttle orbiter fleet has now accomplished over 100 orbital missions. Today also marks the 40th anniversary of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 February 21 - A Sonic Boom
Explanation: Many people have heard a sonic boom, but few have seen one. When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets. Above, an F/A-18 Hornet was photographed just as it broke the sound barrier. Large meteors and the space shuttle frequently produce audible sonic booms before they are slowed below sound speed by the Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 January 29 - An Airplane in Front of the Sun
Explanation: Sometimes, good planes come to those who wait. Experienced solar photographer Thierry Lagault had noticed planes crossing in front of the Sun from his home in suburban Paris. He then got the idea for the above photograph, but had to wait through many near misses. About two weeks ago, he got his wish: a jet crossed directly in front of the Sun when his solar imaging equipment was set up. The resulting image, shown above, was taken in a specific color of red light called Hydrogen-Alpha, and the picture's contrast has been digitally enhanced. Dark prominences can be seen lacing the Sun's busy surface. The airplane is an MD-11.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 25, 1999 - The Gegenschein
Explanation: If you look carefully enough, you can even see the glow of the Sun in the opposite direction. At night this glow is known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow"), and can be seen as a faint glow in an extremely dark sky, as pictured above. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light by the high angle of reflection. At day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschien called the glory can be seen in clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 18, 1999 - A Laguna Triangle
Explanation: High above Laguna Beach last month hung bright celestial orbs. Visible after the California sunset were, from left to right, the Moon, Saturn, and Venus. Tonight and for the next few days, Venus and the Moon will again be visible together. Nearby stars will include Pollux, Castor, and Procyon. Venus now sets hours after the Sun and is so bright it might be mistaken for an airplane or UFO. Binoculars should enable the viewing of craters on the Moon, and phases for Venus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 11, 1999 - Liftoff of Space Shuttle Columbia
Explanation: On April 12, 1981, space flight entered a new era with the first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia. NASA's Space Shuttles land like a normal airplane, carry a heavy cargo, carry a large crew, make use of cheap solid fuel, and are reusable. Previous to this flight, no manned orbiting space ship had ever landed on a runway. Space Shuttles now are the flagships and the workhorses of NASA's space going rockets.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 4, 1998 - Aurora Over Alaska
Explanation: Higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Aurora rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from solar electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The above photograph was taken in January in Alaska and shows a spectacular aurora borealis above a frozen landscape which includes spruce trees and the photographer's truck. The picture had to be taken quickly as the temperature was below -40 degrees.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 12, 1995 - Atlantis Landing
Explanation: Space Shuttle Atlantis lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Space Shuttle is the first orbital space vehicle to land on a runway like an airplane. Space Shuttles sometimes have the option of landing in White Sands, New Mexico or at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The runways the shuttles land on are among the longest in the world. Shuttles that do not land in Florida must generally be strapped to the back of a 747 airplane and flown back.


Return to Search Page
Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day