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Astronomy Picture of the Day
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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 18 - Perseids over the Pyrenees
Explanation: This mountain and night skyscape stretches across the French Pyrenees National Park on August 12, near the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The multi-exposure panoramic view was composed from the Col d'Aubisque, a mountain pass, about an hour before the bright gibbous moon rose. Centered is a misty valley and lights from the region's Gourette ski station toward the south. Taken over the following hour, frames capturing some of the night's long bright perseid meteors were aligned against the backdrop of stars and Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 16 - Perseid by the Sea
Explanation: Just after moonrise on August 12 this grain of cosmic sand fell by the sea, its momentary flash part of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. To create the Perseid meteors, dust along the orbit of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle is swept up by planet Earth. The cometary debris plows through the atmosphere at nearly 60 kilometers per second and is quickly vaporized at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so. Perseid meteors are often bright and colorful, like the one captured in this sea and night skyscape. Against starry sky and faint Milky Way the serene view looks south and west across the Adriatic Sea, from the moonlit Dalmatian coast toward the island of Brac.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 10 - Night of the Perseids
Explanation: This weekend, meteors will rain down near the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Normally bright and colorful, the Perseid shower meteors are produced by dust swept up by planet Earth from the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. They streak from a radiant in Perseus, above the horizon in clear predawn skies. Despite interfering light from August's waning gibbous moon, this year's Perseids will still be enjoyable, especially if you can find yourself in an open space, away from city lights, and in good company. Frames used in this composite view capture bright Perseid meteors from the 2016 meteor shower set against a starry background along the Milky Way, with even the faint Andromeda Galaxy just above center. In the foreground, astronomers of all ages have gathered on a hill above the Slovakian village of Vrchtepla.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 6 - Milky Way and Exploding Meteor
Explanation: Next weekend the Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum. Grains of icy rock will streak across the sky as they evaporate during entry into Earth's atmosphere. These grains were shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids result from the annual crossing of the Earth through Comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit, and are typically the most active meteor shower of the year. Although it is hard to predict the level of activity in any meteor shower, in a clear dark sky an observer might see a meteor a minute. This year's Perseids peak nearly a week after full Moon, and so some faint meteors will be lost to the lunar skyglow. Meteor showers in general are best be seen from a relaxing position, away from lights. Featured here is a meteor caught exploding during the 2015 Perseids above Austria next to the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 1 - Perseid Meteors over Turkey
Explanation: The Perseid Meteor Shower, usually the best meteor shower of the year, will peak late next week. A person watching a clear sky from a dark location might see a bright meteor every minute. These meteors are actually specks of rock that have broken off Comet Swift-Tuttle and continued to orbit the Sun until they vaporize in Earth's atmosphere. The featured composite image shows a outburst of Perseids as they appeared over Turkey during last year's meteor shower. Enough meteors were captured to trace the shower's radiant back to the constellation of Perseus on the far left. The tail-end of the Perseids will still be going during the total solar eclipse on August 21, creating a rare opportunity for some lucky astrophotographers to image a Perseid meteor during the day.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 April 27 - Lyrids in Southern Skies
Explanation: Earth's annual Lyrid meteor shower peaked before dawn on April 22nd, as our fair planet plowed through dust from the tail of long-period comet Thatcher. Seen from the high, dark, and dry Atacama desert a waning crescent Moon and brilliant Venus join Lyrid meteor streaks in this composited view. Captured over 5 hours on the night of April 21/22, the meteors stream away from the shower's radiant, a point not very far on the sky from Vega, alpha star of the constellation Lyra. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. In the foreground are domes of the Las Campanas Observatory housing (left to right) the 2.5 meter du Pont Telescope and the 1.3 meter Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 16 - Meteors vs Supermoon
Explanation: Geminid meteors battled supermoonlight in planet Earth's night skies on December 13/14. Traveling at 35 kilometers (22 miles) per second, the bits of dust from the mysterious asteroid 3200 Phaethon that produce the meteor streaks are faster than a speeding bullet. Still, only the brightest were visible during the long night of 2016's final Perigee Full Moon. Captured in exposures made over several hours, a few meteors from the shower's radiant in Gemini can be traced through this composite nightscape. With stars of Orion near the horizon, the overexposed lunar disk illuminates still waters of the Miyun reservoir northeast of Beijing, China.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 13 - Meteors over Four Girls Mountain
Explanation: On some nights it rains meteors. Peaking over the next two nights, asteroid dust is expected to rain down on Earth during the annual Geminids meteor shower. This year, unfortunately, fainter Geminids will be harder to see because of the brightness of the Long Nights Full Moon, which occurs Wednesday. Pictured, an image from this year's Perseids meteor shower in August captured multiple streaks over Four Girls Mountain in central China. The bright Pleaides open star cluster appears toward the upper right, while numerous emission nebulas are visible in red, many superposed on the diagonal band of the Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 September 5 - Spiral Meteor through the Heart Nebula
Explanation: What is this meteor doing? Dynamically, the unusually short and asymmetric train may indicate that the sand-sized grain at the center of the glow is momentarily spinning as it ablates, causing its path to be slightly spiral. Geographically, the meteor appears to be going through the Heart Nebula, although really it is in Earth's atmosphere and so is about one quadrillion times closer. Taken last month on the night of the peak, this meteor is likely from the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids radiant, in the constellation of Perseus, is off the frame to the upper right, toward the direction that the meteor streak is pointing. The Heart Nebula was imaged in 18 one-minute exposures, of which the unusual meteor streak appeared on just one. The meteor train is multicolored as its glow emanates from different elements in the heated gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 23 - Gigantic Jet Lightning over China
Explanation: That's no meteor. While watching and photographing this year's Perseid Meteor Shower, something unexpected happened: a gigantic jet erupted from a nearby cloud. The whole thing was over in a flash -- it lasted less than a second -- but was fortunately captured by an already-recording digital camera. Gigantic jets are a rare form of lightning recognized formally only a few years ago. The featured high resolution color image, taken near the peak of Shikengkong mountain in China, may be the best image yet of this unusual phenomenon. The same event appears to have been captured simultaneously by another photographer, further away. The gigantic jet appears to start somewhere in a nearby thundercloud and extend 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: 2016 August 20 - Gamma rays and Comet Dust
Explanation: Gamma-rays and dust from periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle plowed through planet Earth's atmosphere on the night of August 11/12. Impacting at about 60 kilometers per second the grains of comet dust produced this year's remarkably active Perseid meteor shower. This composite wide-angle image of aligned shower meteors covers a 4.5 hour period on that Perseid night. In it the flashing meteor streaks can be traced back to the shower's origin on the sky. Alongside the Milky Way in the constellation Perseus, the radiant marks the direction along the perodic comet's orbit. Traveling at the speed of light, cosmic gamma-rays impacting Earth's atmosphere generated showers too, showers of high energy particles. Just as the meteor streaks point back to their origin, the even briefer flashes of light from the particles can be used to reconstruct the direction of the particle shower, to point back to the origin on the sky of the incoming gamma-ray. Unlike the meteors, the incredibly fast particle shower flashes can't be followed by eye. But both can be followed by the high speed cameras on the multi-mirrored dishes in the foreground. Of course, the dishes are MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes, an Earth-based gamma-ray observatory on the Canary Island of La Palma.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 19 - Perseid Fireball at Sunset Crater
Explanation: On the night of August 12, this bright Perseid meteor flashed above volcanic Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona, USA, planet Earth. Streaking along the summer Milky Way, its initial color is likely due to the shower meteor's characteristically high speed. Entering at 60 kilometers per second, Perseid meteors are capable of exciting green emission from oxygen atoms while passing through the tenuous atmosphere at high altitudes. Also characteristic of bright meteors, this Perseid left a visibly glowing persistent train. Its evolution is seen over a three minute sequence (left to right) spanning the bottom of the frame. The camera ultimately captured a dramatic timelapse video of the twisting, drifting train.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 18 - Perseid Night at Yosemite
Explanation: The 2016 Perseid meteor shower performed well on the night of August 11/12. The sky on that memorable evening was recorded from a perch overlooking Yosemite Valley, planet Earth, in this scene composed of 25 separate images selected from an all-night set of sequential exposures. Each image contains a single meteor and was placed in alignment using the background stars. The digital manipulation accounts for the Earth's rotation throughout the night and allows the explosion of colorful trails to be viewed in perspective toward the shower's radiant in the constellation Perseus. The fading alpenglow gently lights the west face of El Capitan just after sunset. Just before sunrise, a faint band zodiacal light, or the false dawn, shines upward from the east, left of Half Dome at the valley's far horizon. Car lights illuminate the valley road. Of course, the image is filled with other celestial sights from that Perseid night, including the Milky Way and the Pleiades star cluster.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 17 - Meteor before Galaxy
Explanation: What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy last Friday, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 13 - Perseid from Torralba del Burgo
Explanation: Perseid meteors rained on planet Earth last night. This year the stream of dust from periodic comet Swift-Tuttle has produced a stunningly active shower of bright cosmic streaks. In this 25 second long exposure, one luminous Perseid trail, fast and colorful with a small explosion at the end, is witnessed by night skygazers from Torralba del Burgo, Soria, Spain. A second fainter meteor trail appears well below the first. The two can be extended to intersect at the meteor shower's radiant just above the brighter stars of the heroic constellation Perseus. Though the meteor shower's activity is waning, in the coming days Perseids will still flash through the night. But you won't see any if you don't go outside and look up.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 11 - Perseid, Aurora, and Noctilucent Clouds
Explanation: Night skies over northern Sweden can hold some tantalizing sights in August. Gazing toward the Big Dipper, this beautiful skyscape captures three of them in a single frame taken last August 12/13. Though receding from northern skies for the season, night shining or noctilucent clouds are hanging just above the horizon. Extreme altitude icy condensations on meteoric dust, they were caught here just below an early apparition of a lovely green auroral band, also shining near the edge of space. The flash of a Perseid meteor near the peak of the annual shower punctuates the scene. In fact, this year's Perseid shower will peak in the coming days, offering a continuing chance for a night sky photographer's hat trick.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 8 - Perseid Meteors over Mount Shasta
Explanation: Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the meteor shower that peaks later this week is known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to came from a radiant toward Perseus. In terms of parent body, though, the sand-sized debris that makes up the Perseids meteors come from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet follows a well-defined orbit around our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus. Featured here, a composite image containing over 60 meteors from last August's Perseids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked over Mount Shasta, California, USA. This year's Perseids holds promise to be the best meteor shower of the year.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 December 23 - Geminid Meteors over Xinglong Observatory
Explanation: Where do Geminid meteors come from? In terms of location on the sky, as the featured image composite beautifully demonstrates, the sand-sized bits of rock that create the streaks of the Geminid Meteor Shower appear to flow out from the constellation of Gemini. In terms of parent body, Solar System trajectories point to the asteroid 3200 Phaethon -- but this results in a bit of a mystery since that unusual object appears mostly dormant. Perhaps, 3200 Phaethon undergoes greater dust-liberating events than we know, but even if so, exactly what happens and why remains a riddle. Peaking last week, over 50 meteors including a bright fireball were captured streaking above Xinglong Observatory in China. Since the Geminids of December are one of the most predictable and active meteor showers, investigations into details of its origin are likely to continue.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 December 17 - Geminids of the South
Explanation: Earth's annual Geminid meteor shower did not disappoint, peaking before dawn on December 14 as our fair planet plowed through dust from active asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Captured in this southern hemisphere nightscape the meteors stream away from the shower's radiant in Gemini. To create the image, many individual frames recording meteor streaks were taken over period of 5 hours. In the final composite they were selected and registered against the starry sky above the twin 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes of Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Rigel in Orion, and Sirius shine brightly as the Milky Way stretches toward the zenith. Near Castor and Pollux the twin stars of Gemini, the meteor shower's radiant is low, close to the horizon. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. Gemini's meteors enter Earth's atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 December 13 - When Gemini Sends Stars to Paranal
Explanation: From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rain down on planet Earth. Tonight, the Geminds reach their peak and could be quite spectacular. The featured blended image, however, captured the shower's impressive peak in the year 2012. The beautiful skyscape collected Gemini's lovely shooting stars in a careful composite of 30 exposures, each 20 seconds long, from the dark of the Chilean Atacama Desert over ESO's Paranal Observatory. In the foreground Paranal's four Very Large Telescopes, four Auxillary Telescopes, and the VLT Survey telescope are all open and observing. The skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (left), Orion, (top left), and the faint light of the Milky Way. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini's meteors enter Earth's atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 20 - Leonids and Friends
Explanation: Leonid meteors rained down on planet Earth this week, the annual shower of dusty debris from the orbit of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. Leonids streak through this composite night skyview from a backyard observatory in southern Ontario. Recorded with camera fixed to a tripod, the individual frames capture the bright meteor activity throughout the night of November 16/17, about a day before the shower's very modest peak. The frames are registered to the fixed field of view, so the meteor trails are not all aligned to the background star field recorded that same evening when nebula-rich Orion stood above the southern horizon. As a result, the trails don't appear to point back to the shower's radiant in Leo, situated off the left edge of the star field frame. In fact, some trails could be of Taurid meteors, a shower also active in November, or even sporadic meteors, including a bright fireball with its reflection near the horizon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 16 - A Blazing Fireball between the Orion Nebula and Rigel
Explanation: What's happening to that meteor? A few days ago, a bright fireball was photographed from the Alps mountain range in Switzerland as it blazed across the sky. The fireball, likely from the Taurids meteor shower, was notable not only for how bright it was, but for the rare orange light it created that lingered for several minutes. Initially, the orange glow made it seem like the meteor trail was on fire. However, the orange glow, known as a persistent train, originated neither from fire nor sunlight-reflecting smoke. Rather, the persistent train's glow emanated from atoms in the Earth's atmosphere in the path of the meteor -- atoms that had an electron knocked away and emit light during reacquisition. Persistent trains often drift, so that the long 3-minute exposure actually captured the initial wind-blown displacement of these bright former ions. The featured image was acquired when trying to image the famous Orion Nebula, visible on the upper left. The bright blue star Rigel, part of the constellation of Orion, is visible to the right. This week the fireball-rich Taurids meteor shower continues to be active even though it has passed its peak, while the more active Leonids meteor shower is just peaking.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 15 - Leonids Over Monument Valley
Explanation: There was a shower over Monument Valley -- but not water. Meteors. The featured image -- actually a composite of six exposures of about 30 seconds each -- was taken in 2001, a year when there was a very active Leonids shower. At that time, Earth was moving through a particularly dense swarm of sand-sized debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, so that meteor rates approached one visible streak per second. The meteors appear parallel because they all fall to Earth from the meteor shower radiant -- a point on the sky towards the constellation of the Lion (Leo). The yearly Leonids meteor shower peaks again this week. Although the Moon's glow should not obstruct the visibility of many meteors, this year's shower will peak with perhaps 15 meteors visible in an hour, a rate which is good but not expected to rival the 2001 Leonids. By the way -- how many meteors can you identify in the featured image?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 12 - Kenya Morning Moon, Planets and Taurid
Explanation: On November 8, a waning crescent Moon joined the continuing parade of planets in Earth's early morning skies. Captured here from Amboseli National Park, Kenya, even the overexposed moonlight can't washout brilliant Venus though, lined up near the ecliptic plane with faint Mars and bright Jupiter above. As if Moon and planets aren't enough, a comparably bright Taurid meteor also streaks through the scene. In fact November's Taurid meteor showers have had a high proportion of bright fireballs. Apparently streaming from radiants in Taurus, the meteors are caused by our fair planet's annual passage through debris from Comet 2P/Encke. The comet's dust grains are catching up with Earth's atmosphere at a relatively low speed of about 27 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 25 - Meteors and Milky Way over Mount Rainier
Explanation: Despite appearances, the sky is not falling. Two weeks ago, however, tiny bits of comet dust were. Featured here is the Perseids meteor shower as captured over Mt. Rainier, Washington, USA. The image was created from a two-hour time lapse video, snaring over 20 meteors, including one that brightened dramatically on the image left. Although each meteor train typically lasts less than a second, the camera was able to capture their color progressions as they disintegrated in the Earth's atmosphere. Here an initial green tint may be indicative of small amounts of glowing magnesium atoms that were knocked off the meteor by atoms in the Earth's atmosphere. To cap things off, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy was simultaneously photographed rising straight up behind the snow-covered peak of Mt. Rainier. Another good meteor shower is expected in mid-November when debris from a different comet intersects Earth as the Leonids.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 13 - Moonless Meteors and the Milky Way
Explanation: Have you watched the Perseid meteor shower? Though the annual shower's predicted peak was last night, meteor activity should continue tonight (August 13/14), best enjoyed by just looking up in clear, dark skies after midnight. Of course, this year's Perseid shower has the advantage of being active near the August 14 New Moon. Since the nearly New Moon doesn't rise before the morning twilight many fainter meteors are easier to spot until then, with no interference from bright moonlight. The Perseid meteor shower last occurred near a New Moon in 2013. That's when the exposures used to construct this image were made, under dark, moonless skies from Hvar Island off the coast of Croatia. The widefield composite includes 67 meteors streaming from the heroic constellation Perseus, the shower's radiant, captured during 2013 August 8-14 against a background of faint zodiacal light and the Milky Way. The next moonless Perseid meteor shower will be in August 2018.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 August 12 - Milky Way and Exploding Meteor
Explanation: Tonight the Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum. Grains of icy rock will streak across the sky as they evaporate during entry into Earth's atmosphere. These grains were shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids result from the annual crossing of the Earth through Comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit, and are typically the most active meteor shower of the year. Although it is hard to predict the level of activity in any meteor shower, in a clear dark sky an observer might see a meteor a minute. This year's Perseids occur just before a new Moon and so the relatively dark sky should make even faint meteors visible. Meteor showers in general are best be seen from a relaxing position, away from lights. Featured here is a meteor caught exploding two weeks ago above Austria next to the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 April 23 - Meteor in the Milky Way
Explanation: Earth's April showers include the Lyrid Meteor Shower, observed for more than 2,000 years when the planet makes its annual passage through the dust stream of long-period Comet Thatcher. A grain of that comet's dust, moving 48 kilometers per second at an altitude of 100 kilometers or so, is swept up in this night sky view from the early hours of April 21. Flashing toward the southeastern horizon, the meteor's brilliant streak crosses the central region of the rising Milky Way. Its trail points back toward the shower's radiant in the constellation Lyra, high in the northern springtime sky and off the top of the frame. The yellowish hue of giant star Antares shines to the right of the Milky Way's bulge. Higher still is bright planet Saturn, near the right edge. Seen from Istra, Croatia, the Lyrid meteor's greenish glow reflects in the waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 27 - The Winter Shower
Explanation: Known in the north as a winter meteor shower, the 2014 Geminids rain down on this rugged, frozen landscape. The scene was recorded from the summit of Mt. Changbai along China's northeastern border with North Korea as a composite of digital frames capturing bright meteors near the shower's peak. Orion is near picture center above the volcanic cater lake. The shower's radiant in the constellation Gemini is to the upper left, at the apparent origin of all the meteor streaks. Paying the price for such a dreamlike view of the celestial spectacle, photographer Jia Hao reports severe wind gusts and wintery minus 34 degree C temperatures near the summit.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 17 - Geminid Fireball over Mount Balang
Explanation: This was a sky to remember. While viewing the Geminids meteor shower a few days ago, a bright fireball was captured over Mt. Balang, China with particularly picturesque surroundings. In the foreground, a sea of light clouds slowly floated between dark mountain peaks. In the background, the constellation of Orion shone brightly, with the familiar three stars of Orion's belt visible near the image top right. Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is visible near the image center. The bright fireball flashed for only a fraction of second on the lower right. The source of the fireball was a pebble that intersected the protective atmosphere of Earth, originally expelled by the Sun-orbiting asteroid-like object 3200 Phaethon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 7 - Aurora Shimmer Meteor Flash
Explanation: Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on 2009 December 13. This 30 second long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from the excellent Geminid meteor shower in 2009 December. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view. Both aurora and meteors occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, but aurora caused by energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere, while meteors are trails of cosmic dust. Toward the end of this week the 2014 Geminids meteor shower will peak, although they will compete with the din of last quarter moonlight.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 November 16 - Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita
Explanation: Leonids Meteor Shower came to an impressive crescendo in 1999. Observers in Europe saw a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. This photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak began. Visible are at least five Leonid meteors streaking high above the Torre de la Guaita, an observation tower used during the 12th century in Girona, Spain. In 2014, over the next few nights, the Leonids meteor shower will again peak. This year, although the crescent Moon should not create much competing skyglow, the Earth is predicted to pass through a more moderate stream of debris left over from Comet Tempel-Tuttle than in 1999, perhaps resulting in as many as 15 visible meteors per hour from dark locations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 August 15 - Perseid in Moonlight
Explanation: Bright moonlight from a Full Moon near perigee illuminates the night and casts shadows in this skyscape from central Iran. Taken on August 12, near the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower the exposure also captures a bright and colorful perseid streak above the shady tree in the foreground. This year the super moonlight interfered with meteor watching into the early morning hours, overwhelming the trails from many fainter perseids in the shower. Brighter perseids like this one were still visible though, their trails pointing back to the heroic constellation Perseus outlined at the right. Swept up as planet Earth orbits through dust left behind from periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, the cosmic grains that produce perseid meteors enter the atmosphere at nearly 60 kilometers per second, heated to incandesence and vaporized at altitudes of about 100 kilometers. Next year, Perseid meteors will flash through dark skies under a New Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 August 10 - A Perseid Below
Explanation: Denizens of planet Earth typically watch meteor showers by looking up. But this remarkable view, captured on August 13, 2011 by astronaut Ron Garan, caught a Perseid meteor by looking down. From Garan's perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept up dust left from comet Swift-Tuttle heated to incandescence. The glowing comet dust grains are traveling at about 60 kilometers per second through the denser atmosphere around 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. In this case, the foreshortened meteor flash is right of frame center, below the curving limb of the Earth and a layer of greenish airglow, just below bright star Arcturus. Want to look up at a meteor shower? You're in luck, as the 2014 Perseids meteor shower peaks this week. Unfortunately, the fainter meteors in this year's shower will be hard to see in a relatively bright sky lit by the glow of a nearly full Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 May 25 - Camelopardalids and ISS
Explanation: From a camp on the northern shores of the Great Lake Erie, three short bright meteor streaks were captured in this composited night skyscape. Recorded over the early morning hours of May 24, the meteors are elusive Camelopardalids. Their trails point back to the meteor shower's radiant near Polaris, in the large but faint constellation Camelopardalis the camel leopard, or in modern terms the Giraffe. While a few meteors did appear, the shower was not an active one as the Earth crossed through the predicted debris trail of periodic comet 209P/LINEAR. Of course, the long bright streak in the image did appear as predicted. Early on May 24, the International Space Station made a bright passage through northern skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 May 19 - Meteors, Planes, and a Galaxy over Bryce Canyon
Explanation: Sometimes land and sky are both busy and beautiful. The landscape pictured in the foreground encompasses Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA, famous for its many interesting rock structures eroded over millions of years. The skyscape above, photogenic in its own right, encompasses the arching central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy, streaks that include three passing airplanes and at least four Eta Aquariid meteors, and bright stars that include the Summer Triangle. The above image is a digital panorama created from 12 smaller images earlier this month on the night May 6. If you missed the recent Eta Aquariids meteor shower though, don't fret -- you may get an unexpected reprieve. Sky enthusiasts are waiting to see if a new meteor shower develops in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 24, when the Earth moves through a possibly dense cloud of dust and debris ejected by Comet 209P/LINEAR.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 May 9 - Halley Dust and Milky Way
Explanation: The early morning hours of May 6 were moonless when grains of cosmic dust streaked through dark skies. Swept up as planet Earth plows through dusty debris streams left behind periodic Comet Halley, the annual meteor shower is known as the Eta Aquarids. This inspired exposure captures a meteor streak moving left to right through the frame. Its trail points back across the arc of the Milky Way to the shower's radiant above the local horizon in the constellation Aquarius. Known for speed Eta Aquarid meteors move fast, entering the atmosphere at about 66 kilometers per second. Still waters of the small pond near Albion, Maine, USA reflect the starry scene and the orange glow of nearby artificial lights scattered by a low cloud bank. Of course, northern hemisphere skygazers are expecting a new meteor shower on May 24, the Camelopardalids, caused by dust from periodic comet 209P/LINEAR.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 May 2 - That Night over Half Dome
Explanation: Captured one night last May this eight frame mosaic starts on the left, down Northside Drive through Yosemite National Park. It ends thousands of light-years away though, as the arc of the Milky Way tracks toward the center of our galaxy on the right, far beyond the park's rugged skyline. That night was still moonless when the storm clouds retreated, so the rocky faces of the surrounding mountains are lit by campfires and artificial lights. Yosemite Falls is at the left. The granite face of Half Dome juts above the far horizon, near the center of the view. The remarkable flash above it is a bright meteor. Part of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower the colorful streak is moving up, its trail pointing directly back to the shower's radiant, low in Aquarius. This year's Eta Aquarids should peak in the moonless early morning hours of May 6 as the Earth sweeps through dust from the tail of Comet Halley.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 April 24 - Lyrids in Southern Skies
Explanation: Earth's annual Lyrid meteor shower peaked before dawn on April 22nd, as our fair planet plowed through dust from the tail of long-period comet Thatcher. Even in the dry and dark Atacama desert along Chile's Pacific coast, light from a last quarter Moon made the night sky bright, washing out fainter meteor streaks. But brighter Lyrid meteors still put on a show. Captured in this composited earth-and-sky view recorded during early morning hours, the meteors stream away from the shower's radiant near Vega, alpha star of the constellation Lyra. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. Rich starfields and dust clouds of our own Milky Way galaxy stretch across the background.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 December 23 - Geminid Meteors over Chile
Explanation: From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth over the past few weeks. Recorded near the shower's peak over the night of December 13 and 14, the above skyscape captures Gemini's shooting stars in a four-hour composite from the dark skies of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. In the foreground the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope is visible as well as the 1-meter SWOPE telescope. The skies beyond the meteors are highlighted by Jupiter, seen as the bright spot near the image center, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, seen vertically on the image left, and the pinkish Orion Nebula on the far left. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini's meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 December 17 - Geminid Meteors over Teide Volcano
Explanation: On some nights it rains meteors. Peaking two nights ago, asteroid dust streaked through the dark skies of Earth, showering down during the annual Geminids meteor shower. Astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado captured the space weather event, as pictured above, in a series of exposures spanning about 2.3 hours using a wide angle lens. The snowcapped Teide volcano of the Canary Islands of Spain towers in the foreground, while the picturesque constellation of Orion highlights the background. The star appearing just near the top of the volcano is Rigel. Although the asteroid dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting meteor streaks appear to radiate from a single point on the sky, in this case in the constellation of Gemini, off the top of the image. Like train tracks appearing to converge in the distance, the meteor radiant effect is due to perspective. The astrophotographer has estimated that there are about 50 Geminids visible in the above composite image -- how many do you see?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 December 13 - Geminid Meteor Shower over Dashanbao Wetlands
Explanation: The annual Geminid meteor shower is raining down on planet Earth this week. Despite the waxing gibbous moonlight, the reliable Geminids should be enjoyable tonight (night of December 13/14) near the shower's peak. Recorded near last year's peak in the early hours of December 14, 2012, this skyscape captures many of Gemini's lovely shooting stars. The careful composite of exposures was made during a three hour period overlooking the Dashanbao Wetlands in central China. Dark skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (right), Orion, (right of center) and the faint band of the Milky Way. The shower's radiant in the constellation Gemini, the apparent source of all the meteor streaks, lies just above the top of the frame. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini's meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 21 - Perseid Meteors Over China
Explanation: Comet dust rained down on planet Earth earlier this month, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. While enjoying the anticipated space weather above Zhangbei Prairie, Hebei Province, China, astronomer Xiang Zhan recorded a series of 10 second long exposures spanning four hours on the night of August 12/13 using a wide angle lens. Combining frames which captured 68 meteor flashes, he produced the above composite view of the Perseids of summer. Although the sand-sized comet particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. The next notable meteor shower may be the Orionids in late October.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 13 - Perseid Meteors Over Ontario
Explanation: Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the meteor shower that peaked over the past few days is known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Perseus. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Swift-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus. Pictured above, a composite of 13 early images from this year's Pereids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked through the sky the night of August 11 near Oakland, Ontario, Canada.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 12 - Orbits of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids
Explanation: Are asteroids dangerous? Some are, but the likelihood of a dangerous asteroid striking the Earth during any given year is low. Because some past mass extinction events have been linked to asteroid impacts, however, humanity has made it a priority to find and catalog those asteroids that may one day affect life on Earth. Pictured above are the orbits of the over 1,000 known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). These documented tumbling boulders of rock and ice are over 140 meters across and will pass within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth -- about 20 times the distance to the Moon. Although none of them will strike the Earth in the next 100 years -- not all PHAs have been discovered, and past 100 years, many orbits become hard to predict. Were an asteroid of this size to impact the Earth, it could raise dangerous tsunamis, for example. Of course rocks and ice bits of much smaller size strike the Earth every day, usually pose no danger, and sometimes creating memorable fireball and meteor displays.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 11 - M74: The Perfect Spiral
Explanation: If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 32 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view. Classified as an Sc galaxy, the grand design of M74's graceful spiral arms are traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes. Constructed from image data recorded in 2003 and 2005, this sharp composite is from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Spanning about 30,000 light-years across the face of M74, it includes exposures recording emission from hydrogen atoms, highlighting the reddish glow of the galaxy's large star-forming regions. Recently, many astronomers are tracking a bright supernova that has been seen in M74.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 10 - Perseids over Meteora
Explanation: The two bright meteors flashing through this night skyscape from August 7 are part of the ongoing Perseid meteor shower. In the direction indicated by both colorful streaks, the shower's radiant in the eponymous constellation Perseus is at the upper right. North star Polaris, near the center of all the short, arcing star trails is at the upper left. But also named for its pose against the sky, the monastery built on the daunting sandstone cliffs in the foreground is part of Meteora. A World Heritage site, Meteora is a historic complex of lofty monasteries located near Kalabaka in central Greece.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 9 - Perseid over Albrechtsberg Castle
Explanation: Medieval Albrechtsberg castle is nestled in trees near the northern bank of the river Pielach and the town of Melk, Austria. In clearing night skies on August 12, 2012 it stood under constellations of the northern summer, including Aquarius, Aquila, and faint, compact Delphinus (above and right of center) in this west-looking skyview. The scene also captures a bright meteor above the castle walls. Part of the annual perseid meteor shower, its trail points back toward the heroic constellation Perseus high above the horizon in the early morning hours. Entering the atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second, perseid meteors are swept up dust grains from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle. Of course, this year's perseid meteors will flash through night skies this weekend.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 August 7 - Meteors and Aurorae over Iceland
Explanation: What's going on behind that mountain? Quite a bit. First of all, the mountain itself, named Kirkjufell, is quite old and located in western Iceland near the town of Grundarfjörður. In front of the steeply-sloped structure lies a fjord that had just begun to freeze when the above image was taken -- in mid-December of 2012. Although quite faint to the unaided eye, the beautiful colors of background aurorae became quite apparent on the 25-second exposure. What makes this image is of particular note, though, is that it also captures streaks from the Geminids meteor shower -- meteors that might not have been evident were the aurora much brighter. Far in the distance, on the left, is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while stars from our local part of the Milky Way appear spread across the background. This weekend the Perseids meteor shower will peak and may well provide sky enthusiasts with their own memorable visual experiences.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 June 15 - Delphinid Meteor Mystery
Explanation: Over a five hour period last Tuesday morning, exposures captured this tantalizing view of meteor streaks and the Milky Way in dark skies above Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. During that time, astronomers had hoped to see an outburst from the gamma Delphinid meteor shower as Earth swept through the dust trail left by an unknown comet. Named for the shower's radiant point in the constellation Delphinus, a brief but strong outburst was reported in bright, moonlit skies on June 10, 1930. While no strong Delphinid meteor activity was reported since, an outburst was tentatively predicted to occur again in 2013. But even though Tuesday's skies were dark, the overall rate of meteors in this field is low, and only the three lower meteor streaks seem to point back to the shower's estimated radiant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 15 - When Gemini Sends Stars to Paranal
Explanation: From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth this week. Recorded near the shower's peak in the early hours of December 14, this skyscape captures Gemini's lovely shooting stars in a careful composite of 30 exposures, each 20 seconds long, from the dark of the Chilean Atacama Desert over ESO's Paranal Observatory. In the foreground Paranal's four Very Large Telescopes, four Auxillary Telescopes, and the VLT Survey telescope are all open and observing. The skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (left), Orion, (top left), and the faint light of the Milky Way. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini's meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 22 - Night of the Long Leonid
Explanation: A cosmic grain of sand left the long and colorful trail across this all-sky view. Its grazing impact with planet Earth's atmosphere began at 71 kilometers per second. With the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, the scene was captured on the night of November 17 from the astronomically popular high plateau at Champ du Feu in Alsace, France. Of course, the earthgrazer meteor belongs to this month's Leonid meteor shower, produced as our fair planet annually sweeps through dust from the tail of periodic Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The shower's radiant point in the constellation Leo is very close to the eastern horizon, near the start of the trail at the lower left. Bright planet Jupiter is also easy to spot, immersed in a faint band of Zodiacal light just below and right of center. The image is part of a dramatic time-lapse video (vimeo here) that began only 7 minutes before the long leonid crossed the sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 19 - Leonids Over Monument Valley
Explanation: What's happening in the sky over Monument Valley? A meteor shower. Over the past weekend the Leonid meteor shower has been peaking. The image -- actually a composite of six exposures of about 30 seconds each -- was taken in 2001, a year when there was a much more active Leonids shower. At that time, Earth was moving through a particularly dense swarm of sand-sized debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, so that meteor rates approached one visible streak per second. The meteors appear parallel because they all fall to Earth from the meteor shower radiant -- a point on the sky towards the constellation of the Lion (Leo). Although the predicted peak of this year's Leonid meteor shower is over, another peak may be visible early tomorrow morning. By the way -- how many meteors can you identify in the above image?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 25 - Perseid over Albrechtsberg Castle
Explanation: Medieval Albrechtsberg castle is nestled in trees near the northern bank of the river Pielach and the town of Melk, Austria. In clearing night skies on August 12 it stood under constellations of the northern summer, including Aquarius, Aquila, and faint, compact Delphinus (above and right of center) in this west-looking skyview. The scene also captures a bright meteor above the castle walls. Part of the annual perseid meteor shower, its trail points back toward the heroic constellation Perseus high above the horizon in the early morning hours. Entering the atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second, perseid meteors are swept up dust grains from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 14 - Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way
Explanation: Where will the next Perseid meteor appear? Sky enthusiasts who trekked outside for the Perseid meteor shower that peaked over the past few days typically had this question on their mind. Six meteors from this past weekend are visible in the above stacked image composite, including one bright fireball streaking along the band of the background Milky Way Galaxy. All Perseid meteors appear to come from the shower radiant in the constellation of Perseus. Early reports about this year's Perseids indicate that as many as 100 meteors per hour were visible from some dark locations during the peak. The above digital mosaic was taken near Weikersheim, Germany.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 10 - Perseid Below
Explanation: Denizens of planet Earth watched last year's Perseid meteor shower by looking up into the bright moonlit night sky. But this remarkable view captured on August 13, 2011 by astronaut Ron Garan looks down on a Perseid meteor. From Garan's perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept up dust left from comet Swift-Tuttle heated to incandescence. The glowing comet dust grains are traveling at about 60 kilometers per second through the denser atmosphere around 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. In this case, the foreshortened meteor flash is right of frame center, below the curving limb of the Earth and a layer of greenish airglow, just below bright star Arcturus. Want to look up at this year's Perseid meteor shower? You're in luck. This weekend the shower should be near its peak, with less interference from a waning crescent Moon rising a few hours before the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 April 25 - Meteor Over Crater Lake
Explanation: Did you see it? One of the more common questions during a meteor shower occurs because the time it takes for a meteor to flash is typically less than the time it takes for a head to turn. Possibly, though, the glory of seeing bright meteors shoot across and knowing that they were once small pebbles on another world might make it all worthwhile, even if your observing partner(s) could not share in every particular experience. Peaking over the past few days, a dark moonless sky allowed the Lyrids meteor shower to exhibit as many as 30 visible meteors per hour from some locations. A bright Lyrid meteor streaks above picturesque Crater Lake in Oregon, USA, in the above composite of nine exposures taken last week. Snow covers the foreground, while the majestic central band of our home galaxy arches well behind the serene lake. Other meteor showers this year include the Perseids in mid-August and the Leonids in mid-November, both expected to also dodge the glare of a bright Moon in 2012.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 8 - Lighthouse and Meteor
Explanation: Named for a forgotten constellation, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower is an annual event for planet Earth's northern hemisphere skygazers. It usually peaks briefly in the cold, early morning hours of January 4. The shower's radiant point on the sky lies within the old, astronomically obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis. That position is situated near the boundaries of the modern constellations Hercules, Bootes, and Draco. Many of this year's Quadrantid meteors were dim, but the one captured in this north-looking view is bright and easy to spot. In the foreground is the Maurice River's East Point Lighthouse located near the southern tip of New Jersey on the US east coast. The likely source of the dust stream that produces Quadrantid meteors was identified in 2003 as an asteroid.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 December 19 - A Geminid Meteor Over Iran
Explanation: Some beautiful things begin as grains of sand. Locked in an oyster, a granule grows into an iridescent pearl, lustrous and lovely to behold. While hurtling through the atmosphere at 35 kilometers per second, a generous cosmic sand grain becomes an awe-inspiring meteor, its transient beauty displayed for any who care to watch. This years Geminid meteor shower peaked last week with sky enthusiasts counting as many as 150 meteors per hour, despite the din of bright moon. Pictured above the Taftan volcano in southeast Iran, a meteor streaks between the bright star Sirius on the far left and the familiar constellation of Orion toward the image center. Sky watchers are looking forward to next years Geminids which should peak during an unobstructive new Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 November 22 - Leonid Fireball over Tenerife
Explanation: Historically active, this year's Leonid meteor shower was diminished by bright moonlight. Still, faithful night sky watchers did see the shower peak on November 18 and even the glare of moonlight didn't come close to masking this brilliant fireball meteor. The colorful meteor trail and final flare was captured early that morning in western skies over the Canary Island Observatorio del Teide on Tenerife. Particles of dust swept up when planet Earth passes near the orbit of periodic comet Tempel-Tuttle, Leonid meteors typically enter the atmosphere at nearly 70 kilometers per second. Looking away from the Moon, the wide angle camera lens also recorded bright stars in the familiar constellations Orion and Taurus near picture center. Inset are two exposures of this fireball's persistent train. The consecutive train images follow the meteor's flash by several minutes as high altitude winds disperse the faint, smokey trail. The two large telescope buildings are the GREGOR telescope with reddish dome and the Vacuum Tower Telescope along the right edge of the frame, both sun watching telescopes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 October 19 - Draconid Meteors Over Spain
Explanation: What are those streaks in the sky? They're meteors from the Draconids meteor shower that peaked earlier this month. The above composite image captured numerous meteor streaks over 90 minutes above the Celtic ruins of Capote in Badajoz province, Spain. The particles that caused these meteors were typically the size of a pebble and were expelled long ago from the nucleus of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. Most of the above meteors can be traced back to a single radiant emanating from the constellation of the Dragon (Draco). Reports from this year's meteor shower indicate that the Draconids were unusually good this year with activity was concentrated around 8 pm UT on October 8. The most intense Draconid meteor showers in recent history occurred in 1933 and 1946 when thousands of meteors per hour were recorded as the Earth plowed through particularly dense streams of comet debris. Although the Draconids occur every October, it is usually difficult to know just how active each year's meteor shower will be.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 August 17 - Perseid Below
Explanation: Denizens of planet Earth watched this year's Perseid meteor shower by looking up into the moonlit night sky. But this remarkable view captured by astronaut Ron Garan looks down on a Perseid meteor. From Garan's perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept up dust left from comet Swift-Tuttle heated to incandescence. The glowing comet dust grains are traveling at about 60 kilometers per second through the denser atmosphere around 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. In this case, the foreshortened meteor flash is right of frame center, below the curving limb of the Earth and a layer of greenish airglow. Out of the frame, the Sun is on the horizon beyond one of the station's solar panel arrays at the upper right. Seen above the meteor near the horizon is bright star Arcturus and a star field that includes the constellations Bootes and Corona Borealis. The image was recorded on August 13 while the space station orbited above an area of China approximately 400 kilometers to the northwest of Beijing.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 August 13 - Castle and Meteor by Moonlight
Explanation: Each August, as planet Earth swings through dust trailing along the orbit of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, skygazers enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower. As Earth moves through the denser part of the comet's wide dust trail this year's shower peaks around 6:00 UT August 13 (this morning), when light from a nearly full Moon masks all but the brighter meteor streaks. Still, Perseid meteors can be spotted in the days surrounding the peak. Moonlight and a Perseid meteor created this gorgeous skyscape, recorded in a simple, single, 10 second long exposure on the morning of August 12. Below the moonlit clouds in the foreground are the ruins of a medieval castle near Veszprem, Hungary, seen against the Bakony mountain range. In the night sky above the clouds, the Perseid meteor's trail is joined by bright planet Jupiter near the center of the frame along with the lovely Pleiades star cluster at the left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 August 11 - The Snows of Paranal
Explanation: Recorded last week, this dawn portrait of snowy mountain and starry sky captures a very rare scenario. The view does feature a pristine sky above the 2,600 meter high mountain Cerro Paranal, but clear skies over Paranal are not at all unusual. That's one reason the mountain is home to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. Considering the number of satellites now in orbit, the near sunrise streak of a satellite glinting at the upper left isn't rare either. And the long, bright trail of a meteor can often be spotted this time of year too. The one at the far right is associated with the annual Perseid meteor shower whose peak is expected tomorrow (Friday, August 12). In fact, the rarest aspect of the picture is just the snow. Cerro Paranal rises above South America's Atacama desert, known as the driest place on planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 January 14 - Quadrantids over Qumis
Explanation: The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is an annual event for planet Earth's northern hemisphere skygazers. It usually peaks briefly in the cold, early morning hours of January 4. The shower is named for its radiant point on the sky within the old, astronomically obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis. That position is situated near the boundaries of the modern constellations Hercules, Bootes, and Draco. In this haunting time exposure, two quadrantid meteor streaks are captured crossing trails left by rising stars of the constellations Virgo and Corvus, but Saturn leaves the brightest "star" trail. The meteor streaks, one bright and one faint, are nearly parallel above and right of center in the frame. Fittingly, the old cistern structure in the foreground lies above the now buried city of Qumis. Known as a city of many gates, Qumis (in Greek history Hecatompylos), was founded 2300 years ago in ancient Persia.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 24 - Star Trails in the North
Explanation: Pointing skyward, the wall of this ruined Viking church still stands after a thousand winters, near the town of Vallentuna, Sweden. The time exposure records the scene on December 14th as stars leave graceful arcing trails during a long night, reflecting planet Earth's daily rotation on its axis. The Earth's axis points toward Polaris, the North Star, near the center of the concentric trails. Welcomed by skygazers on this winter's night, a bright meteor from the annual Geminid meteor shower also flashes through the frame. The meteor cuts across the star trails just above the lower church wall. Contributing to the beautiful composition, meteor streak and church apex both gesture toward the North Celestial Pole.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 17 - A Meteor Moment
Explanation: Intensely bright, this fireball meteor flashed through Tuesday's cold, clear, early morning skies over the Karkas Mountains in central Iran, near the peak of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower. To capture the meteor moment and wintery night skyscape, the photographer's camera was fixed to a tripod, its shutter open for about 1.5 minutes. During that time, the multitude of stars slowly traced short, arcing trails through the sky, a reflection of planet Earth's daily rotation on its axis. The meteor's brilliant dash through the scene was brief, though. Changing color as it went, it also left a reddish swirl of hot, glowing gas near the center of its path. The mountains appear in silhouette against the steady glow of distant city lights.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 16 - Geminids over Kitt Peak
Explanation: Two large telescope domes stand in the foreground of this night sky view from Kitt Peak National Observatory, near Tucson, Arizona, USA. The dramatic scene was recorded early Tuesday morning, near the peak of December's Geminid Meteor Shower. With dome slit open, the building closest to the camera houses the 2.3 Meter (90 inch) Bok Telescope operated by Steward Observatory, University of Arizona. Behind the Bok is the Mayall 4 Meter telescope dome. Of course, no telescopes were needed to enjoy the meteors streaking through the sky! The composite image consists of 13 exposures each 15 seconds long, taken with a wide angle lens over a period of about 2 hours during Kitt Peak's warm, clear, night. An annual celestial event, this meteor shower is the result of planet Earth plowing through dust from mysterious, asteroid-like object 3200 Phaethon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 13 - Contemplating the Sky
Explanation: Have you contemplated your sky recently? Tonight will be a good one for midnight meditators at many northerly locations as meteors from the Geminids meteor shower will frequently streak through. The Geminds meteor shower has slowly been building to a crescendo and should peak tonight. Pictured above ten days ago, a group of celestial sightseers in the Maranjab Desert in Iran, were treated to a dark and wondrous pre-dawn sky that contained the planet Venus and a crescent Moon. Tonight Mars and Mercury should be visible just above the southwestern horizon at sunset, while the first quarter Moon will set around midnight.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 12 - Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita
Explanation: In 1999, Leonids Meteor Shower came to an impressive crescendo. Observers in Europe saw a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. This photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak began. Visible are at least five Leonid meteors streaking high above the Torre de la Guaita, an observation tower used during the 12th century in Girona, Spain. Over the next few nights, the Geminids are expected to put on the best meteor show of this year.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 11 - Meteor in the Desert Sky
Explanation: Created as planet Earth sweeps through dusty debris from mysterious, asteroid-like, 3200 Phaethon, the annual Geminid Meteor Shower should be the best meteor shower of the year. The Geminids are predicted to peak on the night of December 13/14, but you can start watching for Geminid meteors this weekend. The best viewing is after midnight in a dark, moonless sky, with the shower's radiant constellation Gemini well above the horizon - a situation that favors skygazers in the northern hemisphere. In this picture from the 2009 Geminid shower, a bright meteor with a greenish tinge flashes through the sky over the Mojave Desert near Barstow, California, USA. Recognizable in the background are bright stars in the northern asterism known as the Big Dipper, framing the meteor streak.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 21 - Perseid Storm
Explanation: Storms on the distant horizon and comet dust raining through the heavens above are combined in this alluring nightscape. The scene was recorded in the early hours of August 13 from the Keota Star Party site on the Pawnee National Grasslands of northeastern Colorado, USA. Looking east across the prairie, the composite of 8 consecutive exposures each 30 seconds long captures the flash of lightning and a bright Perseid meteor. On the right, even the clouds can't block the light from brilliant planet Jupiter, whose mythological namesake knew how to handle both lightning bolts and meteors. Of course, this meteor's streak points back toward the shower's radiant in the heroic constellation Perseus, sharing a starry background that includes the Pleiades star cluster poised above the storm clouds. Just above the bright meteor lies the faint Andromeda Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 16 - Meteors Over Quebec
Explanation: Meteors streaked through the sky above many of Earth's cities last week, but nobody was hurt, and no damage has been reported. The assault from space appeared to originate from someplace in the constellation of Perseus, and included millions of small projectiles hurtling toward Earth at over 200,000 kilometers per hour. Pictured above, people gathered at ASTROLab du Mont-Megantic in southern Quebec, Canada gazed helplessly toward the sky during a similar event last year as they themselves were unable to stop the meteor onslaughts. Fortunately, Earth's defense, consisting of a planet-wide blanket of air over 100-kilometers thick, obliterated the attacking projectiles by using friction generated by their own speed to heat them into disintegration. The large triangle in the foreground, although impressive in appearance, was not part of the Earth's meteor defense system. The space attack was expected as part of the annual Perseids meteor shower as the Earth passed through sand-sized debris left over from the sun-orbiting Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 14 - Night of the Perseids
Explanation: On the night of August 12, from moonset until dawn was a good time to see meteors. Enthusiasts watched as comet dust rained on planet Earth, streaking through dark skies during the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Anticipating the shower approaching its peak, astronomer Marco Verstraaten recorded a series of exposures capturing meteors over a period of 6 hours using a wide angle lens from a not-so-dark site in the Netherlands. Combining them still produced this dramatic night sky view with many colorful meteor streaks. The starry backdrop includes the Milky Way and even the faint Andromeda Galaxy, right of center. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a spot on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bright stars in Perseus extend into the gap between the foreground trees.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 August 12 - Perseid Prelude
Explanation: Each August, as planet Earth swings through dust trailing along the orbit of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, skygazers can enjoy the Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower should build to its peak now, best seen from later tonight after moonset, until dawn tomorrow morning when Earth moves through the denser part of the wide dust trail. But shower meteors have been spotted for many days, like this bright Perseid streaking through skies near Lake Balaton, Hungary on August 8. In the foreground is the region's Church of St. Andrew ruin, with bright Jupiter dominating the sky to its right. Two galaxies lie in the background of the wide-angle, 3 frame panorama; our own Milky Way's luminous arc, and the faint smudge of the more distant Andromeda Galaxy just above the ruin's leftmost wall. If you watch for Perseid meteors tonight, be sure and check out the early evening sky show too, featuring bright planets and a young crescent Moon near the western horizon after sunset.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 January 4 - Comet Halley's Nucleus: An Orbiting Iceberg
Explanation: What does a comet nucleus look like? Formed from the primordial stuff of the Solar System, comet nuclei were thought to resemble very dirty icebergs. But ground-based telescopes revealed only the surrounding cloud of gas and dust of active comets nearing the Sun, clearly resolving only the comet's coma, and the characteristic cometary tails. In 1986, however, the European spacecraft Giotto became one of the first group of spacecraft ever to encounter and photograph the nucleus of a comet, passing and imaging Halley's nucleus as it approached the sun. Data from Giotto's camera were used to generate this enhanced image of the potato shaped nucleus that measures roughly 15 kilometers across. Some surface features on the dark nucleus are on the right, while gas and dust flowing into Halley's coma are on the left. Every 76 years Comet Halley returns to the inner Solar System and each time the nucleus sheds about a 6-meter deep layer of its ice and rock into space. This debris shed from Halley's nucleus eventually disperses into an orbiting trail responsible for the Orionids meteor shower, in October of every year, and the Eta Aquariids meteor shower every May.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 19 - Aurora Shimmer, Meteor Flash
Explanation: Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on December 13. This 30 second long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from December's excellent Geminid meteor shower. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view. Both aurora and meteors occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, but aurora are caused by energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere, while meteors are trails of cosmic dust.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 18 - Southern Geminids
Explanation: At least 34 meteors are included in this composite image as they rain through Australian skies during the annual Geminid Meteor shower. Dust particles strung out along the orbit of extinct comet Phaethon vaporize when they plow through planet Earth's atmosphere causing the impressive display. Although the particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting streaks clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky near Gemini's twin stars Castor and Pollux at the lower right. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Taken over a period of 2 hours on the morning of December 14, short exposures recording individual meteor streaks were combined with a single long exposure to show the background stars, with Sirius at the top, and the constellation Orion at left. Faint stars and nebulae of the Milky Way track through the center of the frame. Near the radiant point, an extra star in Gemini is actually the flash of a meteor seen almost head-on.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 17 - Mojave Desert Fireball
Explanation: Monstrously bright, this fireball meteor lit up the Mojave Desert sky Monday morning, part of this year's impressive Geminid meteor shower. Seen toward the southwest over rock formations near Victorville, California, a more familiar celestial background was momentarily washed out by the meteor's flash. The background includes bright star Sirius at the left, and Aldebaran and the Pleaides star cluster at the right side of the image. The meteor itself blazes through the constellation Orion. Its greenish trail begins just left of a yellow-tinted Betelgeuse and points back to the shower's radiant in Gemini, just off the top of the frame. A rewarding catch for photographer Wally Pacholka, the spectacular image is one of over 1500 frames that he reports captured 48, mostly faint, Geminid meteors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 12 - Geminid Meteor over Monument Valley
Explanation: The Geminids are expected to put on a good show this year. Created as planet Earth sweeps through dusty debris from extinct comet Phaethon, the annual Geminid meteor shower is predicted to peak on December 14th, around 0510 UT (12:10am EST). With better viewing for northern hemisphere observers, pictures of Geminids streaking through the night could include wintery landscapes, like this snow-tinged image of a 2007 Geminid meteor over buttes of the Monument Valley region in the southwestern US. The meteor streak points back to the constellation Gemini and the shower's radiant point, just off the upper left edge of the scene. Along with Rigel, the sword and belt stars of Orion are at the upper right. Near the eastern horizon are bright stars Procyon (left) and Sirius. The two buttes at the far left are known as The Mittens - clearly a reminder that if you want to watch a meteor shower on a cold December night, wearing mittens would be a good idea.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 November 20 - Meteor between the Clouds
Explanation: This bright meteor streaked through dark night skies over Sutherland, South Africa on November 15. Potentially part of the annual Leonid meteor shower, its sudden, brilliant appearance, likened to a camera's flash, was captured by chance as it passed between two clouds. Of course, the two clouds are also visible to the eye in dark southern skies - the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds - satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way. This year's Leonid meteor shower peaked on November 17 as the Earth passed through the stream of dust from periodic comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 November 19 - Leonid over Mono Lake
Explanation: Eerie spires of rock rise from shore of Mono Lake in the foreground of this early morning skyscape. The salty, mineral-laden lake is located in California's eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range and the spindly rock formations are naturally formed limestone towers called tufa. In the scene, recorded near the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower (now subsiding) on November 17th, a meteor trails through the frigid predawn sky. Arcturus is the brightest star to the right of the meteor streak, while the constellation Leo and the shower's radiant point lie well above the field of view. Reports for this year's Leonids suggest the peak activity briefly exceeded 120 meteors per hour, but rates were typically much lower for many locations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 17 - Perseids from Perseus
Explanation: Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the last week's meteor shower was known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Perseus. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Swift-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus. Pictured above, a composite image of this year's Pereids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked through the sky on August 12. To the surprise of many, the next night, August 13, also showed many meteors, as demonstrated by rolling one's cursor over the above image. This year's Leonids meteor shower in November is expected by some to be exceptionally active, perhaps producing as many as 500 meteors per hour.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 15 - Meteor by Moonlight
Explanation: Dark skies are favored for viewing meteor showers. But the annual Perseid Meteor Shower still entertained skygazers around the world this week even though the Moon brightened the night. At its last quarter phase and rising around midnight on August 13, after the shower's anticipated peak, the Moon is seen here above rock formations in the Alborz Mountains near Firouzkooh, Iran. With a dramatic desert landscape in the foreground, a Perseid meteor is streaking through the moonlit sky between the overexposed Moon and bright planet Jupiter at the upper right. A regular celestial event in the northern hemisphere, the Perseid Meteor Shower is caused by planet Earth's yearly passage through the dust stream cast off by comet Swift-Tuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 14 - Shuttle and Meteor
Explanation: This early morning skyscape was captured last week on August 4th, looking northeast across calm waters in the Turn Basin at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. In a striking contrast in motion, the space shuttle Discovery, mounted on a massive transporter, creeps toward launch pad 39A at less than two miles per hour, while a brilliant meteor streaks through the sky traveling many miles per second. Of course, this week skywatchers have seen many similar meteor streaks during the annual Perseid meteor shower. But the meteor flashing above Discovery is not likely to be one of the Perseids because its path doesn't point back to that shower's radiant. Seen here near picture center, brilliant planet Venus still dominates the sky as the Morning Star, though. Yellowish tinted Mars lies near the top of the frame and Orion's red giant star Betelgeuse is toward the right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 May 11 - Forty Thousand Meteor Origins Across the Sky
Explanation: Where do meteors come from? Visible meteors are typically sand-sized grains of ice and rock that once fragmented from comets. Many a meteor shower has been associated with a known comet, although some intriguing orphan showers do remain. Recently, a group of meteor enthusiasts created a network of over 100 video cameras placed at 25 well-separated locations across Japan. This unprecedented network recorded not only 240,000 optically bright meteors over two years, but almost 40,000 meteors seen by more than one station. These multiple-station events were particularly interesting because they enabled the observers to extrapolate meteor trajectories back into the Solar System. The resulting radiant map is shown above, with many well known meteor showers labelled by the first three letters of the home constellation. Besides known meteor showers, eleven new showers were identified by new radiants on the sky from which meteors appear to flow. The meteor sky is ever changing, and it may be possible that new shower radiants will appear in the future. Research like this could also potentially identify previously unknown comets or asteroids that might one day pass close to the Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 May 1 - Lyrid Meteor and Milky Way
Explanation: On April 22nd, the Lyrid Meteor Shower visited planet Earth's sky, an annual shower produced as the Earth plows through dust from the tail of comet Thatcher. Usually Lyrid meteor watchers see only a drizzle. Just a few meteors per hour stream away from the shower's radiant point near bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. But photographer Tony Rowell still managed to catch one bright Lyrid meteor. Recorded in early morning hours, his well-composed image looks toward the south from White Mountains of eastern California, USA. During the time exposure, he briefly illuminated an old mining cabin in the region's Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the foreground. The rich starfields and dust clouds of our own Milky Way galaxy stretch across the background, along the meteor's glowing trail.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 March 2 - Earthgrazer: The Great Daylight Fireball of 1972
Explanation: What is that streaking across the sky? A bright earthgrazing meteor. In 1972, an unusually bright meteor from space was witnessed bouncing off Earth's atmosphere, much like a skipping stone can bounce off of a calm lake. The impressive event lasted several seconds, was visible in daylight, and reportedly visible all the way from Utah, USA to Alberta, Canada. Pictured above, the fireball was photographed streaking above Teton mountains behind Jackson Lake, Wyoming, USA. The Great Daylight Fireball of 1972 was possibly the size of a small truck, and would likely have created an impressive airburst were it to have struck Earth more directly. Earthgrazing meteors are rare but are more commonly seen when the radiant of a meteor shower is just rising or setting. At that time, meteors closer to the Earth than earthgrazers would more usually strike the Earth near the horizon, while meteors further than earthgrazers would miss the Earth entirely.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 January 5 - Comet and Meteor
Explanation: This meteor streaking toward the horizon through the early morning sky of January 4th is from the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Aligned with the shower's radiant point high in the north (off the top of the view), the meteor trail passes to the right of bright bluish star Beta Scorpii. Remarkably, near the top of the trail is a small spot, the fuzzy greenish glow of a comet. Discovered in July of 2007, Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3), is too faint now to be easily seen by the unaided eye, but will likely brighten to become visible to skygazers by late February. The well-timed skyscape featuring both comet and meteor is particularly appropriate as cometary bodies are known to be the origins of planet Earth's annual meteor showers.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 11 - Mountain Top Meteors
Explanation: A mountain top above the clouds and light-polluted cities was a good place to go to watch this August's Perseid meteor shower. In fact, this composite picture from one of the highest points in Romania, the Omu summit (2,507 meters) in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, captures about 20 of the shower's bright streaks against a starry night sky. The cosmic debris stream that creates the shower is composed of dust particles moving along parallel paths, following the orbit of their parent comet Swift-Tuttle. Looking toward the shower's radiant point in the constellation Perseus, perspective causes the parallel meteor streaks to appear to diverge. But looking directly away from the radiant point, as in this view, perspective actually makes the Perseid meteors seem to be converging toward a point below the horizon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 August 16 - Perseid over Vancouver
Explanation: Colorful and bright, the city lights of Vancouver, Canada are reflected in the water in this portrait of the world at night. Recorded on August 12 during the Perseid Meteor Shower, the wide-angle view takes in a large swath along the photographer's eastern horizon. The picture is a composite of many consecutive 2 second exposures that, when added together, cover a total time of an hour and 33 minutes. During that time, stars trailed through the night sky above Vancouver, their steady motion along concentric arcs a reflection of planet Earth's rotation. The dotted trails of aircraft also cut across the scene. Of course, two of the frames captured the brief, brilliant flash of a Perseid fireball as it tracked across the top of the field of view. The large gap in the single meteor trail corresponds to the time gap between the consecutive frames.

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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 August 14 - Perseid Trail
Explanation: This bright and colorful meteor flashed through Tuesday's early morning skies, part of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. The lovely image is one of over 350 frames captured on August 12 from the Joshua Tree National Park, in California, USA . Dust from comet Swift-Tuttle is responsible for the Perseids, creating the northern hemisphere's regular summer sky show. The comet dust is vaporized as it enters the atmosphere at upwards of 60 kilometers per second, producing visible trails that begin at altitudes of around 100 kilometers. Of course, the trails point back to a radiant point in the constellation Perseus, giving the meteor shower its name. Recorded after moonset, the starry background features the bright star Vega on the right. Extending below the western horizon is the faint band of the northern Milky Way.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 August 9 - Aurora Persei
Explanation: Dark skies are favored for viewing meteor showers -- so the best viewing of this year's Perseids will occur in the early morning. While the Perseid meteor shower is scheduled to peak over the next few days, bright light from a gibbous Moon will also flood the early evening and mask the majority of relatively faint meteors. Still, skygazing in the early morning after the Moon sets (after about 2 AM local time) could reveal many faint meteors. Persistant observing at any time after sunset can reward northern hemisphere watchers looking for occasional Perseid fireballs. Astronomer Jimmy Westlake imaged this bright Perseid meteor despite the combination of moonlight and auroral glow over Colorado skies in August of 2000.

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: 2008 January 3 - Geminids in 2007
Explanation: Dust from curious near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon seems to fall from the constellation Gemini in this fisheye skyview. The composite image was recorded over four December nights (12-15) just last year from Ludanyhalaszi, Hungary. Of course, the streaks are meteor trails from the annual Geminids meteor shower. The work of astronomer Erno Berko, the finished picture combines 113 different frames and captures 123 separate meteors. The Geminids is one of the northern skies most reliably performing meteor showers and did not disappoint last year. Under good conditions some skywatchers reported well over 100 meteors per hour near the December 14/15 peak for the Geminids in 2007. Look up tonight and you might see the 2008 Quadrantids.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 November 17 - Forest and Sky
Explanation: With pine trees in dim silhouette, this skyscape from Breil-sur-Roya in southern France was captured on November 11. In the early evening scene, a satellite seems to streak through the branches, while bright, round, fuzzy Comet Holmes appears to lie just beyond them, near the stars of the constellation Perseus. Mirfak, alpha star of Perseus, is the brightest star above the comet and to the right. Next Monday (November 19), Holmes will be close enough to Mirfak to view the star through the remarkable comet's expanding coma. Recent measurements place the dusty coma's diameter at about 1.4 million kilometers, even larger than the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 September 5 - Aurigids from 47,000 Feet
Explanation: On September 1, Aurigid meteors filled the sky, in keeping with an innovative prediction of an outburst from this historically tentative meteor shower. The prediction was made by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute, in work with Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Jeremie Vaubaillon of Caltech. Astronomers flying at 47,000 feet on a dedicated mission to observe the outburst collected image data for this composite photo of the Aurigids' bright and colorful streaks. The source of the shower is understood to be Comet Kiess, a comet that would have swung through the inner solar system around 2,000 years ago, and again in 1911. Pushed outward by solar radiation pressure, dust from the tail of the comet has been drifting toward the Earth's orbit, creating the 2007 outburst as well as outbursts of the Aurigids recorded in 1935, 1986, and 1994. Of course, the shower's radiant point is in the eponymous constellation Auriga, the Charioteer.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 August 16 - Moonless Perseid Sky
Explanation: Last weekend, dark, moonless night skies brought many sightings of Perseid meteors to skygazers all over planet Earth. Early Sunday morning astronomer John Chumack's camera captured this Perseid meteor streak with a flare near the end of its track over Yellow Springs, Ohio. The single, four minute long exposure looks toward the constellation of Taurus and the eastern horizon. The meteor streak points back to the annual meteor shower's radiant in Perseus off the upper left corner of the picture. Of course, the view includes the well-known Pleiades Star cluster (near top center) with a bright yellowish planet Mars below it. Also seen with a yellowish tint but not quite as bright as Mars, the giant star Aldebaran anchors the V-shaped Hyades star cluster left of center, above the trees.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 August 15 - Mysterious Streaks Over Turkey
Explanation: What are they? Five streaks near the bottom of the above image taken near Ankara, Turkey on Sunday would be identified at first glance as meteors from the Perseids meteor shower peaking just that night. Unexpectedly, however, these streaks do not point back to the Perseids radiant in Perseus. Their origin is therefore somewhat unclear. The above image was captured over the time span of 40 minutes. Other visible celestial icons include the constellation Orion and the Pleiades star cluster. One hypothesis is that the streaks are part of a microburst from a much less active meteor shower known as the Alpha Ursae Majorids. Another possibility is that they are parts of a satellite that broke up as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. A discussion of these possibilities can be found here. This year's Perseids meteor shower was a good one, as it was particularly active and corresponded with the dark skies that come with a new moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 August 12 - Raining Perseids
Explanation: Tonight is a good night to see meteors. Comet dust will rain down on planet Earth, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. While enjoying the anticipated space weather, astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of 2004 August 11/12 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bruenjes notes that there are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. This year, the Perseids Meteor Shower is expected to peak after midnight tonight, in the moonless early morning hours of August 12.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 21 - A Leonid Meteor Over Sweden
Explanation: This past weekend, small remnant bits of a distant comet lit up the skies over much of planet Earth. Incoming reports, however, have this year's Leonid meteor shower as less active than Leonid meteor showers a few years ago. Nevertheless, some sky enthusiasts reported peak meteor bursts as high as one visual meteor per minute. The parent body of the Leonids meteor shower, Comet Tempel-Tuttle, leaves a trail of expelled sand-size particles every 33 years when it returns to the inner Solar System. When the Earth passes through a stream of these Sun-orbiting particles, a meteor shower results. Pictured above, a Leonid meteor was captured two days ago during the early morning hours of November 19 over Vallentuna, Sweden. Although activity levels in meteor showers are notoriously hard to predict, some astronomers speculate that Aurigids meteor shower next September might be unusually rich in bright meteors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 19 - The Car, the Hole, and the Peekskill Meteorite
Explanation: The Peekskill meteor of 1992 was captured on 16 independent videos and then struck a car. Documented as brighter than the full Moon, the spectacular fireball crossed parts of several US states during its 40 seconds of glory before landing in Peekskill, New York. The resulting meteorite, pictured here, is composed of dense rock and has the size and mass of an extremely heavy bowling ball. If you are lucky enough to find a meteorite just after impact, do not pick it up -- parts of it are likely to be either very hot or very cold. In this weekend's Leonid meteor shower, few meteors, if any, are expected to hit the ground.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 18 - Leonids and Leica
Explanation: This lovely view from northern Spain at Cape Creus on the easternmost point of the Iberian peninsula, looks out across the Mediteranean and up into the stream of the 2002 Leonid meteor shower. The picture is a composite of thirty separate one minute exposures taken through a fisheye lens. Over 70 leonid meteors are visible, some seen nearly head on. Bright Jupiter is positioned just to the right of the shower's radiant in Leo. Perched on the moonlit rocks at the bottom right, Leica, the photographers' dog, seems to be watching the on going celestial display and adds a surreal visual element to the scene. The 2006 Leonid meteor shower will be much less intense than in 2002, but will be near its predicted peak this weekend. Sky watchers will have their best view under dark skies in early morning hours with Leo rising above the eastern horizon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 October 23 - Orionid Meteors Over Turkey
Explanation: Meteors have been flowing out from the constellation Orion. This was expected, as mid-October is the time of year for the Orionids Meteor Shower. Pictured above, over a dozen meteors were caught in successively added exposures over three hours taken this past weekend from a town near Bursa, Turkey. The above image shows brilliant multiple meteor streaks that can all be connected to a single point in the sky just above the belt of Orion, called the radiant. The Orionids meteors started as sand sized bits expelled from Comet Halley during one of its trips to the inner Solar System. Comet Halley is actually responsible for two known meteor showers, the other known as the Eta Aquarids and visible every May. Next month, the Leonids Meteor Shower from Comet Tempel-Tuttle might show an even more impressive shower from some locations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 19 - Ceci n'est pas un Meteore
Explanation: To paraphrase Magritte, "This is not a meteor". It's not a picture of a meteor either, but it was taken during last weekend's peak of the Perseid Meteor shower. Skywatching with friends at a cosy beach campsite bathed in moonlight at Treguennec, France, astronomer and APOD translator Laurent Laveder planned to record bright Perseid meteors with camera and tripod. While the Perseid meteors he saw were neither numerous nor bright he did capture the brilliant trail of an Iridium communication satellite. His long exposure began after the satellite glint became visible, so the resulting streak does resemble a meteor trail in the final image. Also recognizable in the serene view of sandy beach and starry sky is the famous northern asterism, the Big Dipper.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 17 - Comet Dust over Colorado
Explanation: The rock formation in the foreground of this night view was recorded on August 10, illuminated by light from a waning gibbous Moon. Even though the sky above also scatters the bright moonlight, a brilliant meteor was captured as it flashed across the scene during the 30 second long exposure. Of course, the meteor was part of the annual rain of dust from periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle known as the Perseid Meteor Shower. Leaving trails that point back to a radiant in the constellation Perseus, the ancient dust particles are vaporized as they enter the atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second, their visible streaks beginning at altitudes of around 100 kilometers. And though it looks like the knuckles of a giant hand, the curious rock formation can be found in Colorado National Monument park, USA, planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 11 - Perseid in the Light
Explanation: Dark skies are favored for viewing meteor showers -- so many are pessimistic about this year's Perseids. While the Perseid meteor shower is scheduled to peak this weekend, bright light from an almost full Moon will also flood the night and mask the majority of relatively faint meteors. Still, skygazing in the evening before the Moon rises (before about 10 PM local time) could reveal spectacular earthgrazing meteors. Persisting even later into the moonlit night can reward northern hemisphere watchers looking for occasional Perseid fireballs. In fact, astronomer Jimmy Westlake imaged this bright Perseid meteor despite the combination of moonlight and auroral glow over Colorado skies in August of 2000.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 May 23 - Comet Schwassmann Wachmann 3 Passes the Earth
Explanation: Rarely does a comet pass this close to Earth. Last week, dedicated astrofilmographers were able to take advantage of the close approach of crumbling 73P / Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 to make time-lapse movies of the fast-moving comet. Large comet fragments passed about 25 times the Moon's distance from the Earth. The above time lapse movie of Fragment B of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 over Colorado, USA was taken during a single night, May 16, with 83 consecutive 49-second exposures. Some observers report being able to perceive the slight motion of the comet with respect to the background stars using only their binoculars and without resorting to the creation of fancy digital time-lapse movies. Fragment B of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 became just barely visible to the unaided eye two weeks ago but now is appearing to fade as the comet has moved past the Earth and nears the Sun. Many sky enthusiasts will be on the watch for a particularly active meteor shower tonight as the Earth made its closest approach to orbit of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 late yesterday.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 November 15 - A Taurid Meteor Fireball
Explanation: Have you ever seen a very bright meteor? Unexpected, this year's Taurid meteor shower resulted in numerous reports of very bright fireballs during the nights surrounding Halloween. Pictured above, a fireball that momentarily rivaled the brightness of the full Moon was caught over Cerro Pachon, Chile by a continuous sky monitor on November 1. Several bright Taurid fireballs are identifiable on the sky movie for that night. The above image is a digitally rectangled version of a circular fisheye frame and shows the entire sky, horizon to horizon. The bright meteor was seen swooping between the directions of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The band of the Milky Way Galaxy crosses the horizon behind the dome of the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope. Taurid meteor fireballs are likely pebble sized debris left by Comet Encke. Over the next week the Leonids meteor shower will peak, although they will need to be seen through the glare of a nearly full Moon. [Disclosure: Robert Nemiroff collaborates on both the Astronomy Picture of the Day and the Night Sky Live projects.]

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 August 15 - Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way
Explanation: Where will the next Perseid meteor appear? Sky enthusiasts who trekked outside for the Perseid meteor shower that peaked over the past few days typically had this question on their mind. The above movie, where the time-line has been digitally altered, captures part of that very mystery. Eight meteors from the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13 have been identified in the movie so far, seven of which are Perseids. Can you identify the non-Perseid meteor? Since all Perseid meteors appear to come from the constellation of Perseus, the non-Perseid meteor is the one that streaks in a different direction. Early reports are that this year's Perseids were unfortunately a bit disappointing. The above digital mosaic was taken from Alsace, France, with the photogenic band of our Milky Way Galaxy far in the background.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 August 13 - SNR 0103 72.6: Oxygen Supply
Explanation: A supernova explosion, a massive star's inevitable and spectacular demise, blasts back into space debris enriched in the heavy elements forged in its stellar core. Incorporated into future stars and planets, these are the elements ultimately necessary for life. Seen here in a false-color x-ray image, supernova remnant SNR 0103-72.6 is revealed to be just such an expanding debris cloud in neighboring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. Judging from the measured size of the expanding outer ring of shock-heated gas, about 150 light-years, light from the original supernova explosion would have first reached Earth about 10,000 years ago. Hundreds of supernova remnants have been identified as much sought after astronomical laboratories for studying the cycle of element synthesis and enrichment, but the x-ray data also show that the hot gas at the center of this particular supernova remnant is exceptionally rich in neon and oxygen.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 August 12 - A Meteor Shower Fireball Movie
Explanation: Go outside tonight and see a celestial light show -- the later the better. Tonight is the peak of the month-long Perseid Meteor Shower. Although visible every year at this time, the Perseids are expected to appear particularly active this year due to the relative absence of glare from the Moon during the peak. Tonight, a thin moon will set a few hours after the Sun, leaving a moonless and dark sky. All through the night, all over the sky, meteors will appear to shoot out the constellation Perseus and across the sky. The rate of meteors and fireballs is not known for sure, but expected by some to be as high as one meteor flash every minute. Lucky sky gazers might be treated to a bright fireball like the one pictured above. That fireball was captured by a digital recorded over Wise Observatory during the 2001 Leonid Meteor Shower. The meteor shower poses no danger as few, if any, of the sand-sized flaring bits are expected to reach the ground.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 August 6 - Raining Perseids
Explanation: Comet dust rained down on planet Earth last August, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. So, while enjoying the anticipated space weather, astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of August 11/12 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bruenjes notes that there are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. This year, the Perseids Meteor Shower will peak in the early morning hours on Friday, August 12.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 December 22 - Comet, Meteor, Nebula, Star
Explanation: Several wonders of the late-year northern sky appeared together for a few fleeting moments on December 13. On the bottom left, just above the hill, is blue Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Above Sirius and slightly to the right of the belt of Orion is the red Orion Nebula, one of the most famous nebulas on the sky. Below and to the right of the Orion Nebula streaks a yellow meteor, although moving in the wrong direction to be from the Geminids meteor shower that peaked the night. Finally, above and to the right of the meteor is Comet Machholz, whose coma appears here relatively green. Since the time since this image was taken over a Californian hill, the Geminid meteor has long since evaporated. Comet Machholz has brightened and moved to the north. Sirius, however, will remain in the constellation of Canis Major indefinitely.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 November 23 - Leonid Meteors Streak
Explanation: The 2004 Leonids meteor shower had its ups and downs. Although average rates were significantly less than many previous years, as expected, at least two unexpected "mini-outbursts" of several bright meteors over a few minutes were reported. Pictured above, a bright Leonid meteor was imaged by a Night Sky Live camera over Kitt Peak National Observatory early in the morning of November 19 during one mini-outburst. The meteor appears as the streak just to the left of the green "Ursa Major" label. Moving your cursor over the image will show the image taken about 25 minutes later where two bright Leonid meteors from a second mini-outburst were recorded, visible on the lower right just to the left of the green words "Canis" and "Minor". The stars appear to shift between the two images because of the rotation of the Earth. The Night Sky Live frames show fisheye images, capturing the entire sky as a person would see it looking straight up, including peripheral vision. In mid-December, the Geminids meteor shower will give sky enthusiasts another good chance to see live meteors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 November 14 - Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita
Explanation: The 1999 Leonids Meteor Shower came to an impressive crescendo. Observers in Europe observed a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. The above photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak began. Visible are at least five Leonids meteors streaking high above the Torre de la Guaita, an observation tower used during the 12th century in Girona, Spain. This year's Leonids should peak twice on November 19th, but is predicted to be less impressive than in 1999.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 August 20 - Raining Perseids
Explanation: Comet dust rained down on planet Earth last week, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. So, while enjoying the anticipated space weather, astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of August 11/12 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bruenjes notes that there are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 August 13 - Perseid Fireball Over Japan
Explanation: Enjoying the bright Moon's absence from early morning skies, observers around the world reported lovely displays during this year's Perseid meteor shower. As anticipated, peak rates were about one meteor per minute. Though most Perseids were faint, this bright and colorful fireball meteor flashed through skies over Japan on August 12 at 0317 JST. Ending at the upper right, the meteor's trail points down and to the left, back to the shower's radiant point between the constellations of Perseus and Cassiopeia, seen here just above the tower structure in the foreground. The Pleiades star cluster is also visible well below the meteor's trail. Perseid shower meteors can be traced to particles of dust from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet dust impacts the atmosphere at speeds of around 60 kilometers per second. While this annual shower's peak has come and gone, Perseid meteors should still be visible over the next few nights, but at a greatly reduced rate.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 August 11 - A Perseid Meteor
Explanation: The ongoing Perseid Meteor Shower should be at its strongest tonight and tomorrow night. Although meteors should be visible all night long, the best time to watch will be between 2:00 AM and dawn each night. In dark, moonless, predawn skies you may see dozens of meteors per hour. Sky enthusiasts in Europe and Asia might see an unusual burst of meteors near 2100 hours UT. Grains of cosmic sand and gravel shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle will streak across the sky as they vaporize during entry into Earth's atmosphere. Tracing the meteor trails backwards, experienced skygazers will find they converge on the constellation Perseus, thus this annual meteor shower's name. Pictured above is a Perseid meteor from 2002 over a rock formation in the US Southwest desert. Shadowing and blurring are caused by the long 10-minute exposure. The brightest Perseids can be seen from anywhere on Earth by monitoring the continuously returning images from the Night Sky Live cameras.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 August 8 - Contemplating the Sky
Explanation: Have you contemplated your sky recently? This week will be a good one for midnight meditators at many northerly locations as meteors from the Perseid meteor shower will frequently streak through. The Perseid meteor shower has slowly been building to a crescendo and should peak on the nights of August 11 and 12. Pictured above on 2002 August 1, a group of celestial sightseers near Quebec, Canada are treated to a dark and wondrous night sky that contained bright stars, green auroras, the band of our Milky Way galaxy, a majestic Moon rising, the International Space Station slowly gliding by, and the occasional flash of a Perseid meteor. Although no meteors were caught in this frame, the Big Dipper remained quite prominent.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 25 - A Late Leonid from a Sparse Shower
Explanation: The 2003 Leonids Meteor Shower contained relatively few meteors. As expected and unlike the last few years, the Earth just did not pass through any dense particle streams left over by the Sun-orbiting Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Preliminary reports had the peak meteor rates only as high as about one relatively faint meteor a minute even from good locations at good times. Pictured above is one of the brighter Leonids of 2003, caught by one of the continuously operating night sky web cameras (CONCAMs) of the global Night Sky Live project. The fisheye image shows the night sky from horizon to horizon above Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA. The image is annotated with several bright stars and planets. Note that this meteor, as do all Leonids, appears to emanate from the constellation Leo, labeled on the upper left. Although the peak of the Leonids this year was on November 19, this meteor flashed through the sky the next night.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 18 - Leonids Over Indian Cove
Explanation: One year ago today an impressive meteor shower graced the skies of Earth. Pictured above from last year, at least six bright meteors are visible in only part of the sky above Indian Cove campground in California, USA, during a four-minute exposure. The 2002 Leonids packed a double punch with planet Earth plunging through two dense clouds of meteroids, dusty debris left by the passage of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. This year, unfortunately, the main peak of the Leonids Meteor Shower is not expected to be so impressive, with the Earth passing though parts of meteoroid clouds predicted to be much less dense. The main peak of the 2003 Leonids is predicted for tomorrow where some locations might see a bright meteor every minute.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 16 - Leonids from Leo
Explanation: Is Leo leaking? Leo, the famous sky constellation visible on the left of the above all-sky photograph, appears to be the source of all the meteors seen in 1998's Leonids Meteor Shower. That Leonids point back to Leo is not a surprise - it is the reason that this November meteor shower is called the Leonids. Sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation Leo. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Leo. Over 150 meteors can be seen in the above four-hour effort. The Leonids Meteor Shower of 2003 is expected to have two peaks, the first three days ago and the second a long-duration peak covering much of November 19. Although visible meteor rates might approach one per minute, they are predicted to be much less than in the previous few years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 9 - A Perseid Aurora
Explanation: Just after the Moon set but before the Sun rose in the early morning hours of 2000 August 12, meteors pelted the Earth from the direction of the constellation Perseus, while ions pelted the Earth from the Sun. The meteors were expected as sub-sand grains long left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle annually create the Perseids Meteor Shower. The aurorae were unexpected, however, as electrons, protons, and heavier ions raced out from a large Coronal Mass Ejection that had occurred just days before on the Sun. In the foreground is Hahn's Peak, an extinct volcano in Colorado, USA. The Perseid meteor shower peaks this year over the next few days, with as much as one bright meteor per minute visible from some locations.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 August 2 - Island Universe, Cosmic Sand
Explanation: On August 13, 2002, while counting Perseid meteors under dark, early morning Arizona skies, Rick Scott set out to photograph their fleeting but fiery trails. The equipment he used included a telephoto lens and fast color film. After 21 pictures he'd caught only two meteors, but luckily this was one of them. Tracking the sky, his ten minute long exposure shows a field of many stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, most too faint to be seen by the unaided eye. Flashing from lower left to upper right, the bright meteor would have been an easy eyeful though, as friction with Earth's atmosphere vaporized the hurtling grain of cosmic sand, a piece of dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Just above and left of center, well beyond the stars of the Milky Way, lies the island universe known as M31 or the Andromeda galaxy. The visible meteor trail begins about 100 kilometers above Earth's surface, one of the closest celestial objects seen in the sky. In contrast, Andromeda, about 2 million light-years away, is the most distant object easily visible to the naked-eye.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 27 - Leonids and Leica
Explanation: This lovely view from northern Spain, at Cape Creus on the easternmost point of the Iberian peninsula, looks out across the Mediteranean and up into the stream of the 2002 Leonid meteor shower. The picture is a composite of thirty separate one minute exposures taken through a fisheye lens near the Leonids' first peak, about 4:00 Universal Time on November 19. Over 70 leonid meteors are visible here, some seen nearly head on, with bright Jupiter positioned just to the right of the shower's radiant in Leo. Perched on the moonlit rocks at the bottom right, the photographers' dog seems to be watching the on going celestial display and adds a surreal visual element to the scene. What's the dog's name? Leica, of course.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 22 - Full Moon, Lake, and Leonids Indeed
Explanation:

Full of itself moon -
EVERYONE SHOULD LOOK AT ME.
What's 33 years?

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 20 - Leonids vs The Moon
Explanation: Beautiful and bright, the 2002 Leonid meteors battled against glaring moonlight. This winning example, from Tuesday morning skies above Laughlin, Nevada, USA, finds an undaunted Leonid streaking between the familiar constellation of Orion (left) and an overexposed full Moon. As anticipated, the Leonid shower packed a double punch on November 19 with planet Earth plunging through two dense clouds of meteroids, dusty debris left by the passage of comet Tempel-Tuttle. Some European observers reported 10 or so meteors a minute during the first peak near 4:00 Universal Time while North American skygazers witnessed slightly lower rates near the second peak around 10:30 UT. Overall, observed rates were much lower than last year's Leonid meteor storm, but for many the sky was still filled with a rewarding spectacle of bright meteors. And that performance may be a fond farewell for years to come. The annual Leonid meteor shower will not likely approach even these rates again until the end of this century.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 19 - A Kitt Peak Leonid at 1026 UT
Explanation: Reports of the 2002 Leonid Meteor Shower are coming in from across the world. Preliminary indications have the shower as less active than last year but with an impressive peak seen through 1030 and 1100 Universal Time visible from much of North America. Observers reported many meteors at the peak arriving in groups. Pictured above is one such meteor from the peak caught earlier today by the Night Sky Live continuous camera at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA. A memorable event of the 2002 Leonids was when the town of Mitzpe Ramon in Israel dimmed its lights to allow better imaging of Leonid meteors from Wise Observatory.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 18 - The Car, the Hole, and the Peekskill Meteorite
Explanation: The Peekskill meteor of 1992 was captured on 16 independent videos and then struck a car. Documented as brighter than the full Moon, the spectacular fireball crossed parts of several US states during its 40 seconds of glory before landing in Peekskill, New York. The resulting meteorite, pictured here, is composed of dense rock and has the size and mass of an extremely heavy bowling ball. If you are lucky enough to find a meteorite just after impact, do not pick it up -- parts of it are likely to be either very hot or very cold. In tonight's possibly spectacular Leonid meteor shower, few meteors, if any, are expected to hit the ground.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 17 - Leonids from Leo
Explanation: Is Leo leaking? Leo, the famous sky constellation visible on the left of the above all-sky photograph, appears to be the source of all the meteors seen in last year's Leonids Meteor Shower. That Leonids point back to Leo is not a surprise - it is the reason that this November meteor shower is called the Leonids. Sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation Leo. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Leo. Over 100 bright meteors can be seen in the above half-hour exposure. The intensity of the Leonid Meteor Shower in 2002 is uncertain but may approach one per second for some locations on November 18 and 19.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 16 - Tempel-Tuttle: The Leonid Comet
Explanation: Star trails streak this composite time exposure of comet Tempel-Tuttle recorded by Tim Puckett on January 26, 1998. Then passing through the inner solar system on its 33 year orbit around the Sun, Tempel-Tuttle brightened unexpectedly, but binoculars or small telescopes were still required to visually observe it. Tempel-Tuttle is also called "the Leonid Comet" as the yearly Leonid meteor shower results when the Earth crosses this comet's orbital plane and encounters a trail of cometary dust. So, while not rivaling spectacular naked-eye comets like Hyakutake or Hale-Bopp, Tempel-Tuttle still puts on a show. The Earth is now approaching relatively dense regions of Tempel-Tuttle's orbiting debris trail, so in the next few days, skywatchers will be searching for leonid meteors. An extremely active meteor shower is expected to be visible over Europe and North America in the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 19, despite interference from a glaring full moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 7 - 2001 Leonids: Meteors in Perspective
Explanation: The 2001 Leonid storm was so intense that the meteor shower's radiant, the point on the sky from which the fleeting trails seemed to diverge, was easy to spot. But the bits of debris that created the meteors really moved along parallel paths, following the orbit of their parent comet Tempel-Tuttle. Their apparent divergence from the shower's radiant point was simply due to perspective as skygazers looked toward the stream of cosmic debris. During the 2001 Leonid storm, while the radiant was above the horizon from SoBaekSan Observatory in South Korea, astronomer Christophe Marlot made this single time exposure recording star trail arcs and a number of meteors. Since Marlot was looking away from the cosmic debris stream, this perspective actually shows red tinged meteor trails converging toward a point below the horizon and opposite the radiant -- the Leonid shower's antiradiant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 November 5 - Leonids Over Joshua Tree National Park
Explanation: This year's Leonid Meteor Shower is predicted to have two peaks, like last year's. The first peak should come at about 04:00 hours Universal Time (UT) on November 19 and be primarily visible from Western Europe before sunrise. The second peak is predicted to occur at about 10:30 UT and be primarily visible from North America before local sunrise. During these times, the Leonid Meteor Shower might well develop into a true meteor storm, with rates possibly exceeding those measured during last year's storm. The meteors in these two peaks come from sand-sized particles ejected from Comet Tempel-Tuttle during trips to the inner Solar System in 1767 and 1866, respectively. If you're stuck without a view you can still catch the shower by looking for streaks caught by the web cameras of the Night Sky Live Project. Pictured above are several meteors from the 2001 Leonids streaking over Joshua Tree National Park in California, USA.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 October 30 - Leonids Over Uluru
Explanation: Will this year's Leonid meteor shower be as good as last year's? No one knows for sure. Possibly, however, in the waning nighttime hours of November 18 and lasting throughout much of November 19, sky gazers across the globe may get their last chance ever to see a meteor storm. Although the glare of a nearly full Moon will likely hide the presence of many faint meteors, plenty of bright meteors may well streak across the other side of the sky. The above image was taken during 2001 as Leonids stormed over Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia. The image is actually a digital composite of 22 separate frames, including one at sunset. The Gum Nebula is visible on the upper left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 23 - Island Universe, Cosmic Sand
Explanation: On August 13, while counting Perseid meteors under dark, early morning Arizona skies, Rick Scott set out to photograph their fleeting but fiery trails. The equipment he used included a telephoto lens and fast color film. After 21 pictures he'd caught only two meteors, but luckily this was one of them. Tracking the sky, his ten minute long exposure shows a field of many stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, most too faint to be seen by the unaided eye. Flashing from lower left to upper right, the bright meteor would have been an easy eyeful though, as friction with Earth's atmosphere vaporized the hurtling grain of cosmic sand, a piece of dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Just above and left of center, well beyond the stars of the Milky Way, lies the island universe known as M31 or the Andromeda galaxy. The visible meteor trail begins about 100 kilometers above Earth's surface, one of the closest celestial objects seen in the sky. In contrast, Andromeda, about 2 million light-years away, is the most distant object easily visible to the naked-eye.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 16 - Rainbow Perseid
Explanation: While meteors do show colors, the colors aren't always seen with the unaided eye. Still, high speed color film recorded this rainbow-like trail as a meteor streaked through the early morning sky on August 13 above Sedona, Arizona, USA. Part of the annual Perseid meteor shower, this bit of dust from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle entered Earth's atmosphere at over 200,000 kilometers per hour. The trail it left glowed briefly as friction with the atmosphere vaporized the dust grain and ionized atoms along its path. The initial green color is thought to be the glow from oxygen in the atmosphere at altitudes above 100 kilometers or so, while sodium atoms and other constituents of the cometary dust grain itself contribute to the orange hues.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 15 - Meteors and Northern Lights
Explanation: Skygazers report that the annual Perseid meteor shower went pretty much as predicted, producing a meteor every few minutes during the dark early morning hours of August 12 and 13. And as the constellation Perseus rose above the horizon on the night of August 11, astrophotographer Wade Clark was anticipating recording images of the flashing meteor trails from the Mt. Baker Ski Area in northwest Washington, USA. But Clark was also treated to a colorful display of northern lights. As a result, the stars of Perseus are arrayed near the center of his well composed skyscape along with trails of Perseid meteors all viewed through the auroral glow. The alluring scene might look familiar to watchers of bygone Perseids. For many, views of the meteor shower in 2000 also coincided with auroral displays, courtesy of the active Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 13 - Contemplating the Sky
Explanation: Have you contemplated your sky recently? Last night was a good one for midnight meditators at many northerly locations as meteors from the Perseid meteor shower frequently streaked through. The Perseid meteor shower has slowly been building to a crescendo but should continue to be rewarding tonight and into the week. Pictured above on August 1, a group of celestial sightseers near Quebec, Canada are treated to a dark and wondrous night sky that contained bright stars, green auroras, the band of our Milky Way galaxy, a majestic Moon rising, the International Space Station slowly gliding by, and the occasional flash of a Perseid meteor. Although no meteors were caught in this frame, the Big Dipper remained quite prominent.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 11 - A Perseid Meteor
Explanation: The ongoing Perseid Meteor Shower should be at its strongest on August 12 and 13. The best time to watch will be between 2:00 AM and dawn on Monday morning (so plan on setting your alarm tonight!) and then again on Tuesday. In dark, moonless, predawn skies you may see dozens of meteors per hour. Grains of cosmic sand and gravel shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle will streak across the sky as they vaporize during entry into Earth's atmosphere. Tracing the meteor trails backwards, experienced skygazers will find they converge on the constellation Perseus, thus this annual meteor shower's name. Pictured above is a Perseid meteor from 1993. The colors are representative but digitally enhanced. As the meteor streaked across the night sky, different excited atoms emitted different colors of light. The origin of the green tinge visible at the right is currently unknown, however, and might result from oxygen in Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 August 9 - Fireworks and Shooting Stars
Explanation: Experimenting with a new telescope and camera, photographer Jim Steele captured this surreal but festive image of fireworks in the night sky above Ashland, Oregon. The date was July 4th and the fiery streaks were part of the traditional annual celebration of independence day in the United States. Fiery streaks from another annual event will revisit dark skies this weekend, as shooting stars arc through the night during the much anticipated Perseid Meteor Shower. Perseid meteors are actually bits of dust from the periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle and once each year planet Earth orbits through Swift-Tuttle's cometary dust stream. As the comet dust enters Earth's atmosphere traveling at tens of kilometers per second, the particles are vaporized leaving bright and sometimes colorful trails. While Perseid meteors can be viewed over the next few nights, this year's shower is expected to peak on August 12 and 13 with a rate of dozens or more meteors per hour visible in moonless early morning skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 12 - Leonids Over Korean Observatory
Explanation: There were two peaks to this year's Leonid Meteor Shower. The first peak was best seen during the early morning hours of November 18 in North America, while the second peak, almost twice the intensity of the first, occurred eight hours later and was best seen from Asia. Pictured above is an image of SoBaekSan National Observatory in Korea during the second Leonid peak, starting at 3:50 am local time. Visible in the background are numerous Leonid meteors bright enough to be seen over background light even during the 40-minute exposure. Local observers reported an average of over one meteor per second during this outburst. Next year's Leonid Meteor Shower might be even more intense but will have to compete will the glare of a nearly full moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 8 - Moon Struck
Explanation: Craters produced by ancient impacts on the airless Moon have long been a familiar sight. But only since 1999 have observers seen elusive optical flashes on the lunar surface - likely explosions resulting from impacting meteoroids. These startling observations were made with modest telescopes and video equipment during the 1999 and 2001 Leonid meteor showers. Six confirmed flashes, some initially as bright as a third magnitude star, were all seen within hours of the peak of the 1999 shower. At least two more lunar flashes, the brightest one at about fourth magnitude, have been confirmed during this November's Leonid storm. The 1999 locations are indicated by the red Xs on the dark lunar night side in this projection of the Moon from November 18 of that year. Similar flashes would have been difficult to see if viewed against the Moon's brightly lit portion. It is estimated that the flashes were made by meteoroids with masses in the range of 1 to 10 kilograms, producing craters a few meters across.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 7 - Mediterranean Leonid 2001
Explanation: A road trip from Ankara to the Mediterranean coast southeast of Antalya, Turkey found clear skies and splendid scenery for astrophotographer Tunc Tezel's viewing of the 2001 Leonid meteor storm. There he captured this dream-like image of a fireball meteor near the horizon's twilight glow, reflected in calm ocean waters. Lights from coastal dwellings and nearby islands are seen in the foreground with brilliant Sirius shining as the brightest star in the heavens, visible in the constellation Canis Major at the upper right. Many enthusiasts who made special trips to view this November's Leonids were rewarded with similar spectacles of the fireball-rich storm. Airborne astronomers too had much to be thankful for as Leonid observations from a specially equiped aircraft flying at 40,000 feet produced bountiful data on the chemical composition of these dust grains from a comet's tail.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 5 - A Sky Filled with Leonids
Explanation: In the early morning hours of November 19, amateur Chen Huang-Ming caught a sky filled with astronomical wonders. With his fisheye camera set up on Ho-Huan Mountain in Taiwan for a half-hour exposure, he started the above image a local time of 2:33 am. First, the many famous stars and nebulas captured are too numerous to count. Planets Jupiter and Saturn are visible, while the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy sweeps diagonally across the image. What makes this image most spectacular, however, are the over 100 bright meteors visible from the 2001 Leonids Meteor Shower. The meteor shower is caused by the Earth plowing through a stream of sand-sized ice particles shed years ago by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Note that the meteors can all be tracked back to a radiant in the constellation Leo, the direction from which the particles orbit the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 23 - Counting Falling Stardust
Explanation: In the clear, dark and moonless predawn hours of November 18, Greenbelt, Maryland's local baseball field was packed. The crowd stared skyward and occasionally conversed in hushed and reverent tones. "How many did you count?" a man asked. Some had long since lost track ... but others were keeping score, counting hundreds of Leonid meteors in a short hour's worth of skygazing. Farther to the west, near Florence, Arizona, recreational astronomers also gathered to enjoy the celestial show. Taken from that location, this single, 10 minute, wide-angle exposure captured a dozen or so Leonid meteors. The shooting stars are clearly seen to be streaming from the shower's radiant point in the constellation Leo.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 22 - Fireball, Smoke Trail, Meteor Storm
Explanation: Returning from orbit, space shuttles enter the atmosphere at about 8 kilometers per second as friction heats their protective ceramic tiles to over 1,400 degrees Celsius. By contrast, the bits of comet dust which became the Leonid meteors seen on November 18, were moving at 70 kilometers per second, completely vaporizing at altitudes of around 100 kilometers. In this single 5 minute time exposure, three Leonid meteors are shooting through skies above Spruce Knob, West Virginia, USA. Background stars are near the constellation Orion. The brightest meteor, a fireball, dramatically changes colors along its path and leaves a smokey persistant trail drifting in high-altitude winds. From that extremely dark site, at an elevation of 1,200 meters, astrophotographer Jerry Lodriguss reports, "We observed a [zenithal hourly rate] of about 3,600 at 10:30 UT and very high rates from 9:30 UT until well into the start of astronomical twilight at 10:50 UT. It was quite a spectacular storm, with bolides going off like flashbulbs, green and red fireballs and other fainter Leonids in all parts of the sky."

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 20 - A Leonids Star Field
Explanation: As meteor after meteor streaked across a moonless sky, photographers across the world snapped pictures of the 2001 Leonids Meteor Shower. Many recognized this as the best meteor shower they had ever seen. In fact, the 2001 Leonids was the most active meteor shower since the mid-1960s. The above photo captures three Leonid meteors crossing a photogenic star-field. On the far right is the Pleiades star cluster. The brightest meteor crosses right in front of the Hyades star cluster, situated below the image center. Just left of center is the bright planet Saturn, and the bright star below Saturn is Aldebaran. The ten-minute exposure was taken near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada at 2:45 am PST on 2001 November 18.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 19 - A 2001 Leonids Meteor Shower Fireball
Explanation: The 2001 Leonids Meteor Shower gave quite a show to many parts of the world yesterday during the early morning hours. Many sleepy observers venturing into their own backyards were treated to several bright meteors per minute streaking across the sky. This rate made the 2001 Leonids the most active meteor shower in over three decades. Pictured above is a bright Leonid fireball that briefly lit up Hawaii yesterday morning. A CONCAM nighttime all-sky monitor on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, caught the bright meteor, seen as the very bright streak across the lower part of the fisheye image. The meteor track crossed the Galactic plane (the faint glow that runs from the lower left to upper right), passed below the planet Jupiter, and through the constellation Orion. CONCAMs in Hawaii, Arizona, and California all recorded numerous bright meteors during this year's Leonids.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 18 - A Leonid Meteor Explodes
Explanation: Last night and tonight, a lucky few may see a meteor explode. As our Earth passes unusually close to debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, many sand-sized particles from this comet are entering and burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. This yearly phenomenon is known as the Leonids Meteor Shower, but the location the Earth passes through this year holds promise to provide relatively high activity. In particular, the 1998 Leonids was noteworthy for its many bright meteors. In the above slow-loading sequence, a 1998 Leonid was caught exploding over Los Alamos, New Mexico. In the last one-minute exposure, another Leonid streaks past.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 16 - Leonid Watching
Explanation: Will the Leonids storm this year? The annual Leonid meteor shower should peak this weekend and some predictions suggest that "storm" rates of a thousand or more meteors per hour are possible for observers located in eastern North and Central America during the early morning hours of Sunday, November 18. Similar high rates are also anticipated for the western Pacific region on the morning of November 19th. In any event, the 2001 Leonid shower should be dramatic and easy to watch, as were the Leonids of recent years. From top left to bottom right above are spectacular examples of bright fireball meteors from the 1998 Leonid shower as recorded by V. Winter and J. Dudley, Lorenzo Lovato, and Wally Pacholka. A 1998 image from the Puckett Observatory at lower left features the source of the debris stream which supplies the Leonid meteors, comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 11 - An Annotated Leonid
Explanation: The 1998 Leonids Meteor Shower was one of the most photographed meteor events in history. Patient observers saw bright meteors streak across dark skies every few minutes, frequently leaving fading trails stretching across the sky. High above the Anza-Borrego Desert, a meteor was photographed streaking up from the radiant constellation of the Leonids: Leo. This meteor train covered over 40 degrees, and changed colors from green to red. The intensity of the Leonid Meteor Shower in 2001 is uncertain but may approach one per second for some locations on November 18.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 November 4 - Leonids from Leo
Explanation: Is Leo leaking? Leo, the famous sky constellation visible on the left of the above all-sky photograph, appears to be the source of all the meteors seen in 1998's Leonids Meteor Shower. That Leonids point back to Leo is not a surprise - it is the reason that this November meteor shower is called the Leonids. Sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation Leo. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Leo. Over 150 meteors can be seen in the above four-hour effort. The intensity of the Leonid Meteor Shower in 2001 is uncertain but may approach one per second for some locations on November 18.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 August 10 - Perseids of Summer
Explanation: Like falling stardust, cast off bits of comet Swift-Tuttle hurtle through the upper atmosphere about this time each year as planet Earth passes near the comet's orbital path. For the northern hemisphere, this regular celestial display is known as the annual Perseid meteor shower -- so named because the meteor trails all appear traceable to a common "radiant point" in the constellation Perseus. This gorgeous wide-angle photo from the 1997 shower captures a 20-degree-long fireball meteor and another, fainter Perseid meteor trail in a rich area of the northern summer Milky Way. A labeled version is available identifying the shower's radiant point, surrounding deep-sky objects, and constellations. Easy to view (just go outside and look up!), the Perseid meteor shower will peak this weekend with maximum rates anticipated early Sunday morning, August 12, for eastern North America. Despite interfering moonlight, last year's faithful Perseid watchers were rewarded with bright meteors and extensive displays of the northern lights.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 29 - Leonids from Orbit
Explanation: Here is what a meteor shower looks like from orbit. During the peak of the 1997 Leonid Meteor Shower, the MSX satellite imaged from above 29 meteors over a 48 minute period entering the Earth's atmosphere. From above, meteors create short bright streaks. Visible beneath the meteors are clouds lit by reflected moonlight, while visible above is the constellation of Aries. The directions of the meteor streaks are nearly parallel, confirming that the meteors all originate from the same meteor stream. Recent analysis of the 2000 Leonids meteor shower indicates to many astronomers that the 2001 Leonids may develop into a real meteor storm, with meteor rates perhaps exceeding one per second visible from parts of Asia.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 26 - Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita
Explanation: Last year, the 1999 Leonids Meteor Shower came to a tremendous crescendo. Observers in Europe observed a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. This year, the 2000 Leonids were somewhat less impressive, although many astronomers hold much hope for the Leonids in 2001 and 2002. The above photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak of 1999 began. Visible are at least five Leonids meteors streaking high above the Torre de la Guaita, an observation tower used during the 12th century in Gorina, Spain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 24 - Long Leonid
Explanation: Just last week this long lovely Leonid shower meteor arced through the night. Captured on November 17/18 by photographer Bob Yen, the meteor trail spans about 70 times the apparent diameter of the full moon in the skies above Mt. Wilson, California, USA. The Leonid's path flashes from the outskirts of constellation Gemini to the triangle-shaped head of Taurus (lower right). Of course, the trail points back toward Leo, the shower's eponymous radiant, while passing near such night sky notables as galactic star cluster M35 (upper left) and Taurus's brightest star, red giant Aldebaran. Though the sky was ruled by a bright but waning Moon and brilliant Jupiter, the Leonid meteor shower still awed observers at dark sky locations with peak rates of hundreds of meteors per hour.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 20 - A 2000 Leonid Through Orion
Explanation: The Leonid Meteor Shower this year could be described as good but not great. During November 17 and 18 the Earth crossed through several streams of sand-sized grit left orbiting the Sun by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Several distinct peaks in meteor activity were reported, with rates approaching 400 meteors per hour for brief periods for some dark locations. Pictured above, a Leonid meteor was caught from Florida streaking through the constellation of Orion on the morning of 2000 November 18. Visible as a red-tinged smudge to the left of the three nearly linear stars that compose Orion's belt is the picturesque star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula. Next year, the Leonids Meteor Shower is expected by many to be much more active.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 17 - Leonid Sunrise
Explanation: Such beautiful things begin as grains of sand. Locked in an oyster a granule grows into an iridescent pearl, lustrous and lovely to behold. While hurtling through the atmosphere at 70 kilometers per second, a cosmic sand grain becomes an awe-inspiring meteor, its transient beauty displayed for any who care to watch. Framed perfectly between orange clouds at sunrise, this bright meteor trail was photographed from the Joshua Tree National Park in California, USA during the 1998 Leonid Meteor Shower. Appropriately titled "Leonid Sunrise", the picture was recorded on high-speed film (ASA 3200) with a 35mm camera. Its striking colors and grainy, textured appearance suggest a painting on canvas. Of course, you could see Leonid meteors at sunrise for yourself. With clear skies, your next chance is coming up ... tomorrow morning.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 16 - A Daytime Fireball in 1944
Explanation: While stationed in central Africa in December 1944, Norman Appleton witnessed a meteor so bright he remembered it his entire life. Right before his eyes a tremendous smoking fireball streaked across the daytime sky. Years later, as an accomplished member of the Guild of Aviation Artists, he recorded his memories in the above painting. Tonight and tomorrow mark the peak of this year's Leonid meteor shower. Although any individual observer is unlikely to see a fireball as spectacular as this one, observers in dark locations might witness as many as hundreds of transient streaks of light emanating from the constellation of Leo across a morning moonlit sky.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 September 15 - Aurora In West Texas Skies
Explanation: The aurora borealis, or northern lights, are not a common sight in the southwestern United States. But a strong solar coronal mass ejection in early August triggered geomagnetic storms and aurora which were widely reported, even under west Texas skies. This striking view of the aurora was recorded from a site near El Paso, Texas and the Hueco Tanks State Historical Park at a latitude just shy of 32 degrees north. Polaris is the brightest star visible near the top and right of center while a Perseid meteor pierces the auroral glow left of picture center, below the bowl of the little dipper. Want to see an aurora? Dark skies and high latitudes (closer to the north or south poles) help. And you might keep an eye on the space weather report. The last big coronal mass ejection headed toward planet Earth was detected by space-based instruments on September 12. It may trigger geomagnetic storms and auroral activity beginning September 14th.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 September 4 - Aurora Persei
Explanation: Last month, skywatchers were treated to an unexpected coincidence: bright aurorae occurred during the Perseid Meteor Shower. The above picture was taken August 12 and captures eerie looking aurorae and a faint Perseid meteor above Cross Lake in Wisconsin, USA. The near future holds promise for both more aurorae and a better meteor shower. Aurorae are becoming increasingly common as their trigger -- our Sun -- nears its period of highest activity during its eleven-year magnetic cycle. Coming up in mid-November is the quirky Leonids Meteor Shower. Although one of the better studied meteor showers, the Leonids have surprised astronomers many times and so many an optimistic skywatcher promises to be outside this year hoping for a memorable show.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 August 21 - A Perseid Aurora
Explanation: Just after the Moon set but before the Sun rose in the early morning hours of August 12, meteors pelted the Earth from the direction of the constellation Perseus, while ions pelted the Earth from the Sun. The meteors were expected as sub-sand grains long left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle annually create the Perseids Meteor Shower. The aurorae were unexpected, however, as electrons, protons, and heavier ions raced out from a large Coronal Mass Ejection that had occurred just days before on the Sun. In the foreground is Hahn's Peak, an extinct volcano in Colorado, USA.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 August 17 - Mount Megantic Magnetic Storm
Explanation: Plasma from the Sun and debris from a comet both collided with planet Earth last Saturday morning triggering magnetic storms and a meteor shower in a dazzling atmospheric spectacle. The debris stream from comet Swift-Tuttle is anticipated yearly, and many skygazers already planned to watch the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower in the dark hours of August 11/12. But the simultaneous, widely reported auroras were triggered by the chance arrival of something much less predictable -- a solar coronal mass ejection. This massive bubble of energetic plasma was seen leaving the active Sun's surface on August 9, just in time to travel to Earth and disrupt the planet's magnetic field triggering extensive auroras during the meteor shower's peak! Inspired by the cosmic light show, Sebastien Gauthier photographed the colorful auroral displays above the dramatic dome of the Mount-Megantic Popular Observatory in southern Quebec, Canada. Bright Jupiter and giant star Aldebaran can be seen peering through the shimmering northern lights at the upper right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 August 12 - A Perseid Meteor
Explanation: This weekend, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum. Grains of cosmic sand and gravel shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle will streak across the sky as they vaporize during entry into Earth's atmosphere. The Perseids result from the yearly crossing of the Earth through Comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit. The Perseids are typically the most active meteor shower of the year. In a clear dark sky, an observer might see a meteor a minute near peak times, but this year a bright moon will overwhelm the glow from many perseid meteors until moonset in the early morning hours. Pictured above is a Perseid meteor from 1993. The colors are representative but digitally enhanced. As the meteor streaked across the night sky, different excited atoms emitted different colors of light. The origin of the green tinge visible at the right is currently unknown, however, and might result from oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. Perseid meteors can best be seen from a relaxing position, away from lights, just before the dawn twilight.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 April 28 - Leonid Glowworm
Explanation: Recent Leonid meteor showers have been rich in bright fireball meteors which leave lingering trails stretching across the night sky. These trails, or persistent trains, are mysteriously self-luminescent and do not shine by reflected light. Visible for many minutes, they are blown by winds at altitudes up to 100 kilometers and can take on progressively twisted worm-like shapes. Recorded in November, during the 1998 Leonid meteor shower, this picture shows a persistent train dubbed "Glowworm" by astronomers at Kirtland Air Force Base's Starfire Optical Range (SOR). What makes the Glowworm glow? To find out, SOR astronomers engaged in a unique experiment, tracking and probing both 1998 and 1999 Leonid meteor trains with pulsed laser lidar (light detection and ranging) systems and other instruments. A copper vapor laser produced the intense streak seen shooting from the lower left of the image. While the cause of the Glowworm's glow remains enigmatic for now, the SOR results will help unravel the mystery.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 8, 1999 - Moon Struck
Explanation: Craters produced by ancient impacts on the airless Moon have long been a familiar sight. But now observers have seen elusive optical flashes on the lunar surface - likely the fleeting result of impacting meteoroids. Orchestrated by David Dunham, president of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA), video recordings made with modest equipment and visual telescopic observations have, for the first time, detected and confirmed a total of six flashes on the Moon's dark side. The flashes, some initially as bright as a third magnitude star, were all seen within hours of the peak of this year's Leonid meteor shower. Their locations are indicated by the red Xs on this projection of the Moon as it appeared on the night of November 18. Similar flashes would have been difficult to see if viewed against the Moon's brightly lit portion. It has been estimated that the brightest flashes were made by meteoroids weighing around a tenth of a kilogram, resulting in lunar craters about one meter across. And ... the next chance to observe lunar impact flashes is coming up! Enterprising astronomers interested in long distance lunar prospecting should be monitoring the dark side of a nearly first quarter Moon during the Geminids meteor shower which will peak around December 13.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 2, 1999 - 1999 Leonid Fireball
Explanation: Most Leonid meteoroids, the bits of comet debris which produce the annual Leonid meteor shower, range from a mere millimeter to a centimeter in diameter. Yet these cosmic grains of sand and gravel can put on quite a spectacular show. How can something so small generate so much light? The answer is their astronomical speed, as these particles enter Earth's atmosphere at around 71 kilometers per second. In the high-speed collisions with air molecules, electrons are stripped from atoms as meteroid material is blasted away. When the electrons recombine with the atoms, light is emitted. This dramatic example of a brilliant 1999 Leonid meteor was photographed while tracking the stars in partly foggy skies on November 18, from a location near Dagali, Norway. The two bright reddish-orange stars visible are the familiar giant stars Betelgeuse (left) and Aldebaran.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 24, 1999 - A Leonids Meteor Storm in 1999
Explanation: The 1999 Leonids meteor shower was not equally good for everybody. Only observers in Europe and the Middle East with clear skies near 2 am (UTC) on 1999 November 18 saw rates shoot up to a meteor every few seconds. Above, however, is a picture taken from Spain during this time, with over a dozen faint meteors visible as green streaks eminating from Leo during just a six minute exposure. Although more numerous, the 1999 Leonids did not have the same high proportion of bright meteors and fireballs as the 1998 Leonids. Last year's Leonid fireballs have been traced back to the 1333 passage of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The orbit of Jupiter continually deflected one stream of cast-off particles while the smallest meteors in this stream were removed by light pressure from the Sun. The remaining Leonids were relatively large, pea sized or larger, compared to the sand-sized Leonids that are more common.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 23, 1999 - Leonids Above Torre de la Guaita
Explanation: The 1999 Leonids Meteor Shower came to a tremendous crescendo. Observers in Europe observed a sharp peak in the number of meteors visible around 0210 UTC during the early morning hours of November 18. Meteor counts then exceeded 1000 per hour - the minimum needed to define a true meteor storm. At other times and from other locations around the world, observers typically reported respectable rates of between 30 and 100 meteors per hour. The above photograph is a 20-minute exposure ending just before the main Leonids peak began. Visible are at least five Leonids meteors streaking high above the Torre de la Guaita, an observation tower used during the 12th century in Gorina, Spain.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 18, 1999 - A Sirius Leonid Meteor
Explanation: In the sky or on the web, did you watch this year's Leonid meteor shower? If you did, meteors flashing through the night sky should be a familiar sight. Recorded last year during the 1998 apparition of the Leonids, this time-exposure of the sky around the constellation Canis Major (big dog) shows the trail of a spectacular fireball meteor. The meteor, by chance, seems to leap from the constellation's brightest star Sirius, near the top right. In the foreground is the beautiful desert scenery of Joshua Tree National Park. At this year's peak of the cosmic dust storm, observers in Europe and Africa reported intense rates of over 1600 meteors per hour for a brief period near 0215 November 18 (UTC). Awe inspiring as they were, the Leonids posed no danger to earthbound skywatchers.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 17, 1999 - A Leonid Meteor Explodes
Explanation: Tonight, a lucky few may see a meteor explode. Over the next 36 hours the Earth will pass unusually close to debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, causing many sand-sized particles from this comet to enter and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. This yearly phenomenon is known as the Leonids Meteor Shower, but the location the Earth passes through this year holds promise to provide particularly high activity. The 1998 Leonids was noteworthy for its many bright meteors. In the above slow-loading sequence, a 1998 Leonid was caught exploding over Los Alamos, New Mexico. In the last one-minute exposure, another Leonid streaks past. If tonight is clear, just grab a lawn chair and a warm jacket, go outside, and look up!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 13, 1999 - Tempel Tuttle: The Leonid Comet
Explanation: Star trails streak this composite time exposure of Comet Tempel-Tuttle recorded by T. Puckett on January 26, 1998. Then passing through the inner solar system on its 33 year orbit around the Sun, Tempel-Tuttle brightened unexpectedly, but binoculars or small telescopes were still required to visually observe it. Tempel-Tuttle is also called "the Leonid Comet" as the yearly Leonid meteor shower results when the Earth crosses this comet's orbital plane and encounters cometary dust. So, while not rivaling spectacular naked-eye comets like Hyakutake or Hale-Bopp, Tempel-Tuttle still puts on a show. When the Earth plunges through Tempel-Tuttle's debris tail in November of this year, many sky-watchers are anticipating an extremely active meteor shower to result, perhaps even a meteor storm!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 12, 1999 - 1998 Leonid Fireball
Explanation: Will this be the year? Last year's Leonid meteor shower did not produce the meteor storm many had hoped for. Still, it put on a dazzling show with many bright fireball meteors. For example, this Leonid fireball, photographed through light clouds, eerily flashed across the skies of Monteromano, Italy on November 17, 1998. This year, the chances for a storm with thousands of meteors per hour are considered good ... but experts are quick to acknowledge that such predictions are tricky. Want to see for yourself? The predicted peak should occur on early Thursday, November 18 (UTC) but meteor activity will certainly be observable days before and after. If the night is clear, just grab a lawn chair and a warm jacket, go outside and look up!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 11, 1999 - A Meteor Over the Anza Borrego Desert
Explanation: Meteors will be flashing across your skies over the next two nights. Specifically, the Perseid Meteor Shower should be at its best just before each morning's dawn. Observers at dark locations might see as much as a meteor a minute. Perseid meteors are bits of dirt that blew off Comet Swift-Tuttle and that burn up as they fall to Earth. Exciting expectations of a new filament in the Perseids might be tested this year. Pictured above is a meteor from the most active meteor shower of last year: the Leonids. Pictured above, a Leonid meteor was caught in November outshining even the brightest stars over the Anza-Borrego Desert in California. The Leonids will peak again this November and might provide an ever better show.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 29, 1998 - A Geminid from Gemini
Explanation: The Leonid meteor shower was not the only good meteor shower this season. Earlier this month, the annual Geminids meteor shower peaked, featuring as many as 140 meteors per hour from some locations. Geminid meteors can be seen streaking away from the constellation of Gemini, as depicted in the above all-sky photograph. The origin of the Geminid meteors is somewhat uncertain but thought to be small bits broken off the unusual asteroid 3200 Phaetheon. Many observers reported that the 1998 Geminids were typically less bright than the 1998 Leonids, but appeared more bunched, with groups of two or three meteors sometimes appearing simultaneously. Next years' Geminids might be better yet.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 22, 1998 - Dawn of the Leonids
Explanation: Many of the 1998 Leonid shower meteors were so bright they could be seen even during sunrise. The above photograph was taken near the dawn of November 16 close to Hong Kong, China. However, most meteors are fainter and are not associated with any particular meteor shower. On any given night from a dark location it would not be unusual to see up to 10 meteors per hour, while the predictable Meteor showers might feature 100 meteors per hour. A true meteor storm will occur only a few times per century. The actual intensity of meteor storms is notoriously hard to predict, but may feature rates upwards of 10 meteors per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 8, 1998 - Leonids from Leo
Explanation: Is Leo leaking? Leo, the famous sky constellation visible on the left of the above all-sky photograph, appears to be the source of all the meteors seen in this year's Leonids Meteor Shower. That Leonids point back to Leo is not a surprise - it is the reason this November meteor shower is called the Leonids. Sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Tempel-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation Leo. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Leo. Over 150 meteors can be seen in the above four-hour exposure. The Geminid Meteor Shower, which appears to eminate from the constellation of Gemini, peaks this coming weekend.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 30, 1998 - An Annotated Leonid
Explanation: The 1998 Leonids Meteor Shower was perhaps the most photographed meteor event in history. Patient observers saw bright meteors streak across dark skies every few minutes, frequently leaving fading trails stretching across the sky. High above the Anza-Borrego Desert, a meteor was photographed streaking up from the radiant constellation of the Leonids: Leo. This meteor train covered over 40 degrees, and changed colors from green to red.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 26, 1998 - Meteor Milky Way
Explanation: The bold, bright star patterns of Orion (right) are a familiar sight to even casual skygazers. But this gorgeous color photo also features a subtler spectacle - the faint stars of the Milky Way. A broad region of the Milky Way runs vertically through the picture with the striking red Rosette Nebula in bloom left of center. Cutting across this dim, diffuse band of stars which lie along the plane of our Galaxy is a meteor streak. It seems to pass just under the red-orange giant star Betelgeuse at Orion's shoulder. Astrophotographer Jeff Medkeff recorded this and other beautiful time exposures from a dark sky countryside southeast of Sierra Vista, Arizona USA, during November's Leonid meteor shower.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 25, 1998 - A Leonid Bolide Over Kansas
Explanation: The 1998 Leonid Meteor Shower featured many bright events. Extremely bright meteors, known as bolides or fireballs, can briefly glow brighter than the full moon. Pictured above is a Leonid bolide caught during a five-minute, wide-angle exposure. The bolide was so bright it lit up the surrounding area, making otherwise dark trees visible. Also visible are at least three other meteors, numerous bright stars, and the constellation Orion. This meteor shower is called the Leonids because most of the meteors move out from the constellation Leo. At this location near the Powell Observatory in Kansas, over 200 meteors per hour were reported.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 24, 1998 - Seven Leonids Over Wise Observatory
Explanation: More Leonids were visible at some places than others. In Israel, early in the morning of 17 November, it rained meteors though a clear sky. Observers there reported a peak rate for the 1998 Leonid Meteor Shower of about 600 meteors per hour. Visible in the above picture are no fewer than seven Leonid meteors occurring over just a few minutes. (Can you find them all?) The dome of the Wise Observatory is visible on the right. The Earth's rotation causes stars to appear as arcs. The 1998 Leonids might be remembered not for their numbers, however, but for the unusually high fraction of bright fireballs. Another eventful Leonid Meteor Shower is forecast for the same time next year.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 23, 1998 - A Leonid Meteor Explodes
Explanation: Click on the above image and watch a Leonid meteor explode. The tremendous heat generated by the collision of a small sand-bit moving at 70 kilometers/second with the Earth's upper atmosphere causes the rock-fragment to heat up, glow brightly, and disintegrate. In some cases, the meteor literally explodes leaving a visible cloud that dissipates slowly. The above image shows just such an explosion for a bright meteor from the recent Leonid Meteor Shower. Clicking on the above image will start a (4.2 Megabtye) movie of thirty 1-minute exposures showing the explosion cloud dissipate. Each movie frame, taken with the ROTSE telescope early 17 November, is 8 degrees across - 16 times the diameter of the full moon. Near the middle of the sequence, a less bright meteor moves through the field.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 20, 1998 - Green Fireball
Explanation: "Goodness, Gracious, Green Balls Of Fire!", might have been an appropriate theme song title for the 1998 Leonid meteor shower. Many observers, like astrophotographer Steve Dunn watching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, reported that a lot of the characteristically bright Leonid meteors had a greenish tint. Around 6:00 AM EST on November 17, he photographed this dazzling Leonid fireball leaving a striking green-to-white trail against a background of stars in the constellation Coma Berenices. Dunn comments that he considers himself a green novice observer, but is now anticipating next November's appearance of the Leonids shower.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 19, 1998 - Bright Leonids
Explanation: Rich in bright and awesome fireballs, the Leonid Meteor Shower came early this year. In fact, judging from meteor watcher reports the peak came nearly 15 hours earlier than the best predictions. Observers on the Canary Islands were probably close to an ideal viewing location and recorded a maximum of effectively about 200 to 250 meteors per hour near dawn on November 17 - way below the peak rate during the 1966 Leonid meteor storm display. Still, those blessed with clear skies in dark, early morning hours all over planet Earth were treated to a first rate cosmic light show. Roving astrophotographer Olivier Staiger took this stunning image of two bright Leonids in the skies over Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 16, 1998 - Leonids 1998: A Safe Meteor Storm
Explanation: You're in no danger. During the meteor storm occurring tonight and tomorrow, thousands of bits of ice and rock will likely rain onto the Earth. Few, if any, will hit the ground. Touted as potentially the most active meteor shower since 1966, the Leonids of 1998 will be tracked by observers the world over. The meteor storm is caused by the Earth moving through the leftover debris of Comet Temple-Tuttle. The peak of the storm will be best visible tomorrow from Asia, though increased activity should be visible globally over many hours. It is even possible to monitor the storm live on the web. Pictured above is a Perseid 1997 meteor streaking across the sky behind an illuminated California desert.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 13, 1998 - A Leonid Fireball From 1966
Explanation: This bright fireball meteor was photographed from Table Mountain Observatory during the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower on November 17, 1966. That was a good year for Leonid meteor watchers - a meteor "storm" was produced as the Earth swept through a dense swarm of dusty debris from the tail of comet Tempel-Tuttle. Observer Jim Young reported a peak rate for the 1966 shower of about 50 meteors per second and recorded 22 otherwise extremely rare, bright fireballs like this one in the span of 90 minutes from his California mountain top location. Predictions are uncertain, but this year might also produce an intense apparition of the Leonids shower which should again peak on the 17th. You may need to be well placed and a little lucky to see the shower at its maximum, but Leonid meteors should be easy to see in dark skies - particularly in early morning hours - for two or so days before and after the peak. How do you watch a meteor shower? Get a comfortable lawn chair and a warm jacket ... go outside and look up!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 8, 1998 - Leonid Meteor Shower Next Week
Explanation: Early next week, a spectacular meteor storm is expected: the 1998 Leonids. It is widely thought that that the meteors from the Leonids meteor shower are just small pieces of Comet Temple-Tuttle falling to Earth. During each pass near the Sun, a comet will heat up and shed pieces of ice and rock from its nucleus. This debris continues to orbit the Sun until either evaporating or being swept up by some large solar-system body. A piece of comet debris striking the Moon creates a small crater, but a piece striking the Earth usually burns up in the atmosphere causing a brief, bright streak. The streak below center in the above picture of the northern sky actually depicts a meteor from the Perseid meteor shower, a usually impressive display that peaks every year in mid-August.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 10, 1998 - Meteors Now and Again
Explanation: The Perseid Meteor Shower, usually the best meteor shower of the year, will peak over the next two nights. Over the course of an hour, a person watching a clear sky from a dark location might see as many as 100 meteors. These meteors are actually specs of rock that have broken off Comet Swift-Tuttle and continue to orbit the Sun. This year, however, the Perseids may only be second best. In November the Earth is predicted to move through a denser stream of Comet Tempel-Tuttle debris, possibly causing greater than 10,000 meteors per hour visible at some locations. Pictured above is the alpha-Monocerotid meteor outburst of 1995. This is the last week to send your name to a comet with NASA's planned Stardust mission.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 30, 1998 - Tempel-Tuttle: The Leonid Comet
Explanation: Star trails streak this composite time exposure of Comet Tempel-Tuttle recorded by T. Puckett on January 26. Presently passing through the inner solar system on its 33 year orbit around the Sun, Tempel-Tuttle has brightened unexpectedly, but binoculars or small telescopes are still required to visually observe it. Tempel-Tuttle is also called "the Leonid Comet" as the yearly Leonid meteor shower results when the Earth crosses this comet's orbital plane and encounters cometary dust. So, while not currently rivaling the spectacle of a Hyakutake or Hale-Bopp, Tempel-Tuttle may still put on a show. When the Earth plunges through Tempel-Tuttle's debris tail in November of this year, many sky-watchers are anticipating an extremely active meteor shower to result, perhaps even a meteor storm!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 17, 1997 - Barringer Crater on Earth
Explanation: What happens when a meteor hits the ground? Usually nothing much, as most meteors are small, and indentations they make are soon eroded away. 49,000 years ago, however, a large meteor created Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona, pictured above. Barringer is over a kilometer across. In 1920, it was the first feature on Earth to be recognized as an impact crater. Today, over 100 terrestrial impact craters have been identified. Early this morning, the Leonid Meteor Shower reaches its peak, although no impacts of this magnitude are expected.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 16, 1997 - The Leonid Meteor Shower
Explanation: The Leonid Meteor Shower will likely reach its peak in the early hours this Monday morning. Though the Moon will be bright, Leo, the shower's radiant point, will be well above the eastern horizon from Western North America and the Pacific region during this period. This year's Leonids may prove particularly exciting as observers anticipate the legendary Leonid storm of activity will occur sometime during the next few apparitions of this annual meteor shower - although most expect the meteor storm to occur in 1998 or 1999. Meteor showers result from debris left by passing comets. The Leonids specifically are small pieces of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. In the above series of time-lapse, 1-minute exposures, a 1995 Leonid is seen to leave a train of hot air that glowed persistently for several minutes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 20, 1997 - Bright Meteor, Dark Sky
Explanation: Has Orion the Hunter acquired a new weapon? If you turn your head sideways (counterclockwise) you might notice the familiar constellation of Orion, particularly the three consecutive bright stars that make up Orion's belt. But in addition to the stars that compose his sword, Orion appears to have added some sort of futuristic light-saber, possibly in an attempt to finally track down Taurus the Bull. Actually, the bright streak is a meteor from the Perseid Meteor Shower, a shower that put on an impressive display last Tuesday morning, when this photograph was taken. This meteor was likely a small icy pebble shed years ago from Comet Swift-Tuttle that evaporated as it entered Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 11, 1997 - A Perseid Meteor
Explanation: Tonight the Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum. Grains of rocky ice will streak across the sky as they evaporate during entry into Earth's atmosphere. These ice chips were shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids result from the annual crossing of the Earth through Comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit. The Perseids are typically the most active meteor shower of the year. In a clear dark sky, an observer might see a meteor a minute. Pictured above is a Perseid meteor from 1993. The colors are representative but digitally enhanced. As the meteor streaked across the night sky, different excited atoms emitted different colors of light. The origin of the green tinge visible at the right is currently unknown, however, and might result from oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. Perseid meteors can best be seen from a relaxing position, away from lights.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 16, 1996 - The Leonid Meteor Shower (Tonight)
Explanation: Tonight thousands of icy rocks will hurl toward Earth in a fascinating display of light called the Leonid Meteor Shower. There is little danger - few will reach the ground. But this year's Leonids could be nothing compared to the Leonids in 1998. Then, the Leonids might rival any meteor storm this century, with peak rates possibly toping 40 per second. Meteor showers result from debris left by passing comets. The Leonids specifically are small pieces of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. In the above series of time-lapse, 1-minute exposures, a 1995 Leonid is seen to leave a train of hot air that glowed persistently for several minutes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 21, 1996 - Orionids Meteor Shower to Peak Tonight
Explanation: Tonight you might be able to see Halley's Comet again - or at least some pieces of it. It is widely thought that that the meteors from the Orionids meteor shower, which peaks tonight, are just small pieces of Halley's Comet falling to Earth. During each pass near the Sun, a comet will heat up and shed pieces of ice and rock from its nucleus. This debris continues to orbit the Sun until either evaporating or being swept up by some large solar-system body. A piece of comet debris striking the Moon creates a small crater, but a piece striking the Earth usually burns up in the atmosphere causing a brief, bright streak. Every year at this time the Earth crosses an old stream of bits from Halley's Comet causing the Orionids display, named from the constellation (Orion) from which the meteors appear to originate. The streak below center in the above picture of the northern sky actually depicts a meteor from the Perseid meteor shower, a usually even more impressive display that peaks every year in mid-August.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 9, 1996 - The Perseid Meteor Shower
Explanation: From a radiant point in the constellation of Perseus, Comet Swift-Tuttle presents -- The Perseid Meteor Shower -- coming to your night sky this weekend! A bookish E. C. Herrick of New Haven, Connecticut correctly suspected in 1837 that this meteor shower was an annual event. Indeed it is now known to be a regular August shower caused by the yearly passage of the Earth through the orbiting debri left behind by periodic comet Swift-Tuttle. Since the bits of comet debri are moving along parallel orbits, on entering the atmosphere they leave fiery trails which appear to originate from a common radiant point in the sky, in this case in the constellation of Perseus. Dramatically illustrated in this composite video image made using MOVIE, meteors from the 1994 Perseids streak across the sky framed by the three bright stars of the asterism known as the "Summer Triangle". The image shows bright Perseids recorded that year from August 9 through 14. Here the trails appear nearly parallel as the camera was centered on the sky about 90 degrees from the radiant point. This year, European and North American observers should be able to view the shower near its maximum, about 90 meteors per hour, early Monday morning August 12, but the shower should be enjoyable on clear weekend nights (August 10,11) as well. After midnight is generally the best time for viewing. What's the best way to enjoy a meteor shower? Get a warm jacket and a comfortable lawnchair ... go outside and look up.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 26, 1996 - Fireball!
Explanation: On rare but spectacular occasions, fireballs, meteors brighter than the brightest stars, flash through the heavens - sometimes making audible sounds and occasionally surviving to strike the Earth's surface. The path of one such fireball, recorded last year in January skies over Hannover Germany is shown above, the brilliant meteor easily outshining the stars of the constellation Orion (visible at the far right). In fact, for this brief moment Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is overwhelmed as the image of the fireball grazes it. This dramatic event was recorded by a video camera observation technique known as MOVIE. Interplanetary space is littered with meteoroids, "rocks" tens of yards in diameter and less. Striking the Earth's atmosphere at high relative speeds, they leave visible trails known as meteors or, more poetically, "shooting stars". The trails are created when the intense heat caused by friction vaporizes them. Fireballs can be caused by meteroids weighing small fractions of an ounce which do not survive to reach the ground. Remnants of larger ones, which do reach the ground after running this fiery gauntlet, are called meteorites. Though fireballs are rare, meteors are visible on any clear night of the year. Even outside the predicted regular meteor shower events, patient observers in dark sky areas can see several an hour - by just looking up! Sightings of fireballs should be reported.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 19, 1996 - Periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle
Explanation: Comet Swift-Tuttle, shown above in false color, is the largest object known to make repeated passes near the Earth. It is also one of the oldest known periodic comets with sightings spanning two millennia. Last seen in 1862, its reappearance in 1992 was not spectacular, but the comet did become bright enough to see from many locations with binoculars. To create this composite telescopic image, four separate exposures have been combined, compensating for the motion of the comet. As a result, the stars appear slightly trailed. The inset shows details of the central coma. The unseen nucleus itself is essentially a chunk of dirty ice about ten kilometers in diameter. Comets usually originate in the Oort cloud in the distant Solar System - well past Pluto, most never venturing into the inner Solar System. When perturbed - perhaps by the gravity of a nearby star - a comet may fall toward the Sun. As a comet approaches the Sun, rocks, ice-chunks, gas, and dust boil away, sometimes creating impressive looking tails. In fact, debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle is responsible for the Perseids meteor shower visible every July and August. Comet Swift-Tuttle is expected to make an impressive pass near the earth in the year 2126, possibly similar to Comet Hyakutake this year or Comet Hale-Bopp next year.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 26, 1996 - Quadrantids: Meteors in Perspective
Explanation: Meteor showers are caused by streams of solid particles, dust size and larger, moving as a group through space. In many cases, the orbits of these meteor streams can be identified with the dust tails of comets. When the Earth passes through the streams, the particles leave brilliant trails through the night sky as they burn up in the atmosphere. Above is an image of a meteor shower known as the Quadrantids. It was made in January 1995 using MOVIE, a new system for making video meteor observations. To make the image, frames from a video tape were computer processed and superposed to show the relative paths of many meteors in the shower. The meteor paths are all parallel to each other, but the effect of perspective causes the trails to appear to originate from a distant radiant point in the sky. In contrast to the elongated meteor trails, the brighter stars of the familiar constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) are visible as points in the lower half of the image.


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