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Astronomy Picture of the Day
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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 September 23 - Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice
Explanation: Today is an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Tomorrow, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The featured picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the north's winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the northern summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during an equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings see today, the day of the most recent equinox.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 May 4 - Saturn and the Da Vinci Glow
Explanation: On February 2nd early morning risers saw Saturn near an old Moon low on the eastern horizon. On that date bright planet, sunlit crescent, and faint lunar night side were captured in this predawn skyscape from Bursa, Turkey. Of course the Moon's ashen glow is earthshine, earthlight reflected from the Moon's night side. A description of earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth's oceans illuminating the Moon's dark surface, was written over 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci. On May 2nd an old Moon also rose in the predawn twilight. On that date its ashen glow shared the sky with Venus, the brilliant morning star. May 2nd also marked the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death in 1519.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 November 8 - Mars in the Loop
Explanation: This composite of images spaced some 5 to 9 days apart, from late April (bottom right) through November 5 (top left), traces the retrograde motion of ruddy-colored Mars through planet Earth's night sky. To connect the dots and dates in this 2018 Mars retrograde loop, just slide your cursor over the picture (and check out this animation). But Mars didn't actually reverse the direction of its orbit. Instead, the apparent backwards motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. On July 27, Mars was near its favorable 2018 perihelic opposition, when Mars was closest to the Sun in its orbit while also opposite the Sun in Earth's sky. For that date, the frame used in this composite was taken during the total lunar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 September 29 - 55 Nights with Saturn
Explanation: For 55 consecutive nights Mediterranean skies were at least partly clear this summer, from the 1st of July to the 24th of August 2018. An exposure from each night was incorporated in this composited telephoto and telescopic image to follow bright planet Saturn as it wandered through the generous evening skies. Through August, the outer planet's seasonal apparent retrograde motion slowed and drifted to the right, framed by a starry background. That brought it near the line-of-sight to the central Milky Way, and the beautiful Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20) nebulae. Of course Saturn's largest moon Titan was also along for the ride. Swinging around the gas giant in a 16 day long orbit, Titan's resulting wave-like motion is easier to spot when the almost-too-bright Saturn is digitally edited from the scene.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 June 2 - Jupiter Season, Hawaiian Sky
Explanation: Volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaii has increased since this Hawaiian night skyscape was recorded earlier this year. Recent vents and lava flows are about 30 kilometers to the east, the direction of the blowing smoke and steam in the panoramic view of the Kilauea caldera with Halemaumau crater taken from Volcanoes National Park. Still, this year Jupiter is bright in late spring to early summer skies. High in the south it is easily the brightest celestial beacon in the scene where the central bulge of the Milky Way seems to rise above vapors and clouds. Yellowish Antares is the bright star near the end of the dark rivers of dust seen toward the center of our galaxy. Near the horizon, stars Alpha and Beta Centauri and the compact Southern Cross shine through the almost too bright volcanic smoke.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 February 3 - Earthshadow and the Beehive
Explanation: The Earth's dark umbral shadow is shaped like a cone extending into space. Of course its circular cross section at the distance of the Moon is more easily seen during a lunar eclipse. In fact, in this composite telephoto image from Earth's night side on January 31, the Earth's shadow has taken on a reddish tinge. The extent of the shadow along the lunar orbit is illustrated by aligning three frames taken just before the start, near the middle of, and just after the end of the total eclipse phase that lasted about 76 minutes. At the upper right and more easily seen during the eclipse's darker total phase is M44, one of the closest large star clusters. A mere 600 light-years away, M44 is also known as the Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 November 18 - Friday the Moon Smiled
Explanation: Friday, an old Moon smiled for early morning risers. Its waning sunlit crescent is captured in this atmospheric scene from clear skies near Bursa, Turkey, planet Earth. In the subtle twilight hues nearby celestial lights are Jupiter (top) and Venus shining close to the eastern horizon. But today, Saturday, the Moon will be new and early next week its waxing crescent will follow the setting Sun as it sinks in the west. Then, a young Moon's smile will join Saturn and Mercury in early evening skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 August 11 - A Total Solar Eclipse of Saros 145
Explanation: A darkened sky holds bright planet Venus, the New Moon in silhouette, and the shimmering corona of the Sun in this image of a total solar eclipse. A composite of simultaneous telephoto and wide angle frames it was taken in the path of totality 18 years ago, August 11, 1999, near Kastamonu, Turkey. That particular solar eclipse is a member of Saros 145. Known historically from observations of the Moon's orbit, the Saros cycle predicts when the Sun, Earth, and Moon will return to the same geometry for a solar (or lunar) eclipse. The Saros has a period of 18 years, 11 and 1/3 days. Eclipses separated by one Saros period belong to the same numbered Saros series and are very similar. But the path of totality for consecutive solar eclipses in the same Saros shifts across the Earth because the planet rotates for an additional 8 hours during the cycle's fractional day. So the next solar eclipse of Saros 145 will also be a total eclipse, and the narrow path of totality will track coast to coast across the United States on August 21, 2017.

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 February 25 - All Planets Panorama
Explanation: For 360 degrees, a view along the plane of the ecliptic is captured in this remarkable panorama, with seven planets in a starry sky. The mosaic was constructed using images taken during January 24-26, from Nacpan Beach, El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. It covers the eastern horizon (left) in dark early morning hours and the western horizon in evening skies. While the ecliptic runs along the middle traced by a faint band of zodiacal light, the Milky Way also cuts at angles through the frame. Clouds and the Moon join fleeting planet Mercury in the east. Yellowish Saturn, bright star Antares, and Jupiter lie near the ecliptic farther right. Hugging the ecliptic near center are Leo's alpha star Regulus and star cluster M44. The evening planets gathered along the ecliptic above the western horizon, are faint Uranus, ruddy Mars, brilliant Venus, and even fainter Neptune. A well labeled version of the panorama can be viewed by sliding your cursor over the picture, or just following this link.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 September 15 - Retrograde Mars and Saturn
Explanation: Wandering Mars and Saturn have spent much of this year remarkably close in planet Earth's night sky. In a sequence of exposures spanning mid-December 2015 through the beginning of this week, this composited skyview follows their time together, including both near opposition, just north of bright star Antares near the Milky Way's central bulge. In the corresponding video, Saturn's apparent movement is seen to be back and forth along the flattened, compact loop, while Mars traces the wider, reversing S-shaped track from upper right to lower left through the frame. To connect the dots and dates just slide your cursor over the picture (or follow this link). It looks that way, but Mars and Saturn don't actually reverse direction along their orbits. Instead, their apparent backwards or retrograde motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the orbital motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 August 22 - Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma
Explanation: If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun's position change? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. At the Winter Solstice in Earth's northern hemisphere, the Sun appears at the bottom of the analemma. Analemmas created from different latitudes appear at least slightly different, as well as analemmas created at a different time each day. With even greater planning and effort, the series can include a total eclipse of the Sun as one of the images. Pictured is such a total solar eclipse analemma or Tutulemma - a term coined by the photographers based on the Turkish word for eclipse. The featured composite image sequence was recorded from Turkey starting in 2005. The base image for the sequence is from the total phase of a solar eclipse as viewed from Side, Turkey on 2006 March 29. Venus was also visible during totality, toward the lower right. If you want to create your own USA-based tutulemma ending at next August's total solar eclipse, now would be good time to start.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 July 23 - Summer Planets and Milky Way
Explanation: Lights sprawl toward the horizon in this night skyscape from Uludag National Park, Bursa Province, Turkey, planet Earth. The stars and nebulae of the Milky Way are still visible though, stretching above the lights on the northern summer night while three other planets shine brightly. Jupiter is at the far right, Mars near the center of the frame, and Saturn is just right of the bulging center of our galaxy. Because the panoramic scene was captured on July 6, all three planets pictured were hosting orbiting, operational, robotic spacecraft from Earth. Popular Mars has five (from three different space agencies): MAVEN (NASA), Mars Orbiter Mission (India), Mars Express (ESA), Mars Odyssey (NASA), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA). Ringed Saturn hosts the daring Cassini spacecraft. Just arrived, Juno now orbits ruling gas giant Jupiter.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 May 21 - Milky Way and Planets Near Opposition
Explanation: In this early May night skyscape, a mountain road near Bursa, Turkey seems to lead toward bright planets Mars and Saturn and the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, a direction nearly opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. The brightest celestial beacon on the scene, Mars, reaches its opposition tonight and Saturn in early June. Both will remain nearly opposite the Sun, up all night and close to Earth for the coming weeks, so the time is right for good telescopic viewing. Mars and Saturn form the tight celestial triangle with red giant star Antares just right of the Milky Way's central bulge. But tonight the Moon is also at opposition. Easy to see near bright Mars and Saturn, the Full Moon's light will wash out the central Milky Way's fainter starlight though, even in dark mountain skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 February 20 - An Evening Sky Conjunction
Explanation: Eight years ago, an evening sky held this lovely pairing of a young crescent Moon and brilliant Venus. Seen near the western horizon, the close conjunction and its wintry reflection were captured from Bolu, Turkey, planet Earth on February 19, 2007. In the 8 Earth years since this photograph was taken Venus has orbited the Sun almost exactly 13 times, so the Sun and Venus have now returned to the same the configuration in Earth's sky. And since every 8 years the Moon also nearly repeats its phases for a given time of year, a very similar crescent Moon-Venus conjunction will again appear in planet Earth's evening skies tonight. But the February 20, 2015 version of the conjunction will also include planet Mars. Much fainter Mars will wander even closer to Venus by the evening of February 21.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 October 28 - Retrograde Mars
Explanation: Why would Mars appear to move backwards? Most of the time, the apparent motion of Mars in Earth's sky is in one direction, slow but steady in front of the far distant stars. About every two years, however, the Earth passes Mars as they orbit around the Sun. During the most recent such pass starting late last year, Mars as usual, loomed large and bright. Also during this time, Mars appeared to move backwards in the sky, a phenomenon called retrograde motion. Featured here is a series of images digitally stacked so that all of the stars coincide. Here, Mars appears to trace out a narrow loop in the sky. At the center of the loop, Earth passed Mars and the retrograde motion was the highest. Retrograde motion can also be seen for other Solar System planets.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 April 10 - Mars, Ceres, Vesta
Explanation: That bright, ruddy star you've recently noticed rising just after sunset isn't a star at all. That's Mars, the Red Planet. Mars is now near its 2014 opposition (April 8) and closest approach (April 14), looping through the constellation Virgo opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. Clearly outshining bluish Spica, alpha star of Virgo, Mars is centered in this labeled skyview from early April, that includes two other solar system worlds approaching their opposition. On the left, small and faint asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres are seen near star Tau Virginis. But you'll just have to imagine NASA's Dawn spacecraft cruising between the small worlds. Having left Vesta in September of 2012, Dawn's ion engine has been steadily driving it to match orbits with Ceres, scheduled to arrive there in February 2015. Of course, you can also look near Mars for the Moon opposite the Sun in Earth's sky on the night of April 14/15 ... and see a total lunar eclipse.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 December 22 - Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma
Explanation: If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun's position change? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. Yesterday, the Winter Solstice day in Earth's northern hemisphere, the Sun appeared at the bottom of the analemma. Analemmas created from different latitudes would appear at least slightly different, as well as analemmas created at a different time each day. With even greater planning and effort, the series can include a total eclipse of the Sun as one of the images. Pictured is such a total solar eclipse analemma or Tutulemma - a term coined by the photographers based on the Turkish word for eclipse. The above composite image sequence was recorded from Turkey starting in 2005. The base image for the sequence is from the total phase of a solar eclipse as viewed from Side, Turkey on 2006 March 29. Venus was also visible during totality, toward the lower right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 October 14 - High Noon Analemma Over Azerbaijan
Explanation: Is the Sun always straight up at noontime? No. For example, the Sun never appears directly overhead from locations well north or south of the Earth's equator. Conversely, there is always a place on Earth where the Sun will appear at zenith at noon -- for example on the equator during an equinox. Turning the problem around, however, as in finding where the Sun actually appears to be at high noon, is as easy as waiting for midday, pointing your camera up, and taking a picture. If you do this often enough, you find that as the days march by, the Sun slowly traces out a figure eight on the sky. Pictured above is one such high noon analemma -- a series of pictures always taken at exactly noontime over the course of a year. The above fisheye image, accumulated mostly during 2012, also shows some buildings and trees of Baku, Azerbaijan around the edges.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 July 19 - Take a Picture of Saturn
Explanation: Take a picture of Saturn in the sky tonight. You could capture a view like this one. Recorded just last month looking toward the south, planet Earth and ruins of the ancient temple of Athena at Assos, Turkey are in the foreground. The Moon rises at the far left of the frame and Saturn is the bright "star" at the upper right, near Virgo's alpha star Spica (picture with labels). If you do take a picture of Saturn or wave at Saturn and take a picture, you can share it online and submit it to the Saturn Mosaic Project. Why take a picture tonight? Because the Cassini spacecraft will be orbiting Saturn and taking a picture of you.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 May 9 - Ring of Fire over Monument Valley
Explanation: As the New Moon continues this season's celestial shadow play, an annular solar eclipse track begins in western Australia at 22:30 UT on May 9 -- near sunrise on May 10 local time. Because the eclipse occurs within a few days of lunar apogee, the Moon's silhouette does not quite cover the Sun during mid-eclipse, momentarily creating a spectacular ring of fire. While a larger region witnesses a partial eclipse, the annular mid-eclipse phase is visible along a shadow track only about 200 kilometers wide but 13,000 kilometers long, extending across the central Pacific. For given locations along it, the ring of fire lasts from 4 to 6 minutes. Near the horizon, the appearance of the May 9/10 annular eclipse (online viewing) is suggested by this dramatic composite from May of 2012. The timelapse sequence depicts an annular eclipse in progress before sunset over Monument Valley in the southwestern United States.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 8 - Baku Moonrise
Explanation: A Full Moon rises in this waterfront scene. Its colorful, watery reflection is joined by harbor lights and a windowed skyscraper's echo of the western horizon just after sunset. The tantalizing image is a composite of frames recorded at 2 minute intervals on November 28 from the Caspian Sea port city of Baku, Azerbaijan. Still, this Full Moon was not really as big or as bright as others, though it might be hard to tell. In fact, November 28's Full Moon was near apogee, making it the smallest Full Moon of 2012. As it rose over the Baku boardwalk (along with much of the eastern hemisphere), it was also in the Earth's lighter or penumbral shadow. The subtle effect of the penumbral lunar eclipse is just discernible as the slightly darker left side of the lunar disk. Opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky, the Full Moon was also joined by bright planet Jupiter, only a few days from its own opposition.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 November 27 - Bright Jupiter in Taurus
Explanation: That bright star you've recently noticed rising just after sunset isn't a star at all. It's Jupiter, the solar system's ruling gas giant. Bright Jupiter is nearing its December 3rd opposition when it will stand in Taurus, opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. Clearly outshining yellowish Aldebaran, alpha star of Taurus, Jupiter is centered in this skyview from November 14th, also featuring the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, familiar celestial sights as the northern hemisphere winter approaches. Sliding your cursor over the image will label the scene and identify two other solar system worlds approaching their opposition in December. Small and faint, asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres are about 10 degrees from Jupiter, near the left edge of the frame. Of course, you can imagine NASA's Dawn spacecraft in this field of view. Having left Vesta in September, Dawn's ion engine is now steadily driving it to match orbits with Ceres, scheduled to arrive there in February 2015.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 September 23 - Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice
Explanation: Yesterday was an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Today, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during the Vernal Equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings saw yesterday, the day of the Autumnal Equinox.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 September 20 - Sunrise Analemma (with a little extra)
Explanation: An analemma is that figure-8 curve that you get when you mark the position of the Sun at the same time each day throughout planet Earth's year. In this case, a composite of 17 individual images taken at 0231 UT on dates between April 2 and September 16 follows half the analemma curve. The scene looks east toward the rising sun and the Caspian sea from the boardwalk in the port city of Baku, Azerbaijan. With the sun nearest the horizon, those dates almost span the period between the 2012 equinoxes on March 20 and September 22. The northern summer Solstice on June 20 corresponds to the top of the figure 8 at the left, when the Sun stood at its northernmost declination. Of course, this year the exposure made on June 6 contained a little something extra. Slightly enhanced, the little black spot on the bright solar disk near the top of the frame is planet Venus, caught in a rare transit during this well-planned sunrise analemma project.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 August 9 - Mars in the Loop
Explanation: This composite of images spaced some 5 to 7 days apart from late October 2011 (top right) through early July 2012 (bottom left), traces the retrograde motion of ruddy-colored Mars through planet Earth's night sky. To connect the dots in Mars' retrograde loop, just slide your cursor over the picture (and check out this animation). But Mars didn't actually reverse the direction of its orbit. Instead, the apparent backwards motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. On March 4th, 2012 Mars was opposite the Sun in Earth's sky, near its closest and brightest at the center of this picture. Just arrived on the surface of the Red Planet, the Curiosity rover was launched on November 26, when Mars was near the crossover point of its retrograde loop. Of course, Mars can now be spotted close to Saturn and bright star Spica, near the western horizon after sunset.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 September 24 - Mangaia's Milky Way
Explanation: From Sagittarius to Carina, the Milky Way Galaxy shines in this dark night sky above planet Earth's lush island paradise of Mangaia. Familiar to denizens of the southern hemisphere, the gorgeous skyscape includes the bulging galactic center at the upper left and bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri just right of center. About 10 kilometers wide, volcanic Mangaia is the southernmost of the Cook Islands. Geologists estimate that at 18 million years old it is the oldest island in the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the Milky Way is somewhat older, with the galaxy's oldest stars estimated to be over 13 billion years old. (Editor's note: This image holds the distinction of being selected as winner in the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the Earth and Space category.)

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 July 30 - A Tale of Two Hemispheres
Explanation: A quest to find planet Earth's darkest night skies led to this intriguing panorama. In projection, the mosaic view sandwiches the horizons visible in all-sky images taken from the northern hemisphere's Canary Island of La Palma (top) and the south's high Atacama Desert between the two hemispheres of the Milky Way Galaxy. The photographers' choice of locations offered locally dark skies enjoyed by La Palma's Roque de los Muchachos Observatory and Paranal Observatory in Chile. But it also allowed the directions to the Milky Way's north and south galactic poles to be placed near the local zenith. That constrained the faint, diffuse glow of the plane of the Milky Way to the mountainous horizons. As a result, an even fainter S-shaped band of light, sunlight scattered by dust along the solar system's ecliptic plane, can be completely traced through both northern and southern hemisphere night skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 July 2 - Moon and Venus at Dawn
Explanation: Brilliant Venus and a thin crescent Moon stood together above the eastern horizon just before sunrise on June 30. The lovely celestial pairing is captured in this colorful twilight skyview overlooking a reservoir near Izmir, Turkey. For some, the close conjunction could be viewed as a daylight occultation. While Venus is nearing the end of its latest performance as planet Earth's morning star, the old lunar cresent, about 24 hours from its New Moon phase, was also bidding farewell for now to the dawn. In fact, for the next two nights a young Moon can be spotted just after sunset. Look for a thin sunlit sliver close to the western horizon, not far from bright planet Mercury.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 28 - Skylights Over Libya
Explanation: Sometimes the sky itself seems to glow. Usually, this means you are seeing a cloud reflecting sunlight or moonlight. If the glow appears as a faint band of light running across the whole sky, you are probably seeing the combined light from the billions of stars that compose our Milky Way Galaxy. Such a glow is visible rising diagonally up to the right in the above image. If the glow is seen coming up from the horizon just before sunrise or just after sunset, however, you might be seeing something called zodiacal light. Pictured rising diagonally up to the left in the above image, zodiacal light is just sunlight reflected by tiny dust particles orbiting in our Solar System. Many of these particles were ejected by comets. The above image was taken just after sunset earlier this month from Ras Lanuf, Libya.

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

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 July 10 - Ecliptic New Zealand
Explanation: Four bright celestial beacons and a faint triangle of light follow the plane of the ecliptic as it arcs high through this southern hemisphere night skyscape. Seen on a July winter night from Lake Taupo on New Zealand's North Island, the line-up features Venus, Regulus (alpha star of Leo), Mars, and Saturn from lower left to upper right. Just put your cursor over the picture to identify the planets and constellations. The delicate luminous glow of Zodiacal Light, sunlight scattered by dust along the ecliptic, also rises above the horizon from the lower left. Of course, defined by the path of the Sun through planet Earth's sky, the ecliptic plane rides low during July nights in the northern hemisphere's summer skies. Tomorrow, the Moon and Sun will meet on the ecliptic. Along a track across the southern Pacific Ocean, the daytime sky will feature a total solar eclipse.

Total Solar Eclipse: Times and Visibility | Webcast

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 June 13 - Retrograde Mars
Explanation: Why would Mars appear to move backwards? Most of the time, the apparent motion of Mars in Earth's sky is in one direction, slow but steady in front of the far distant stars. About every two years, however, the Earth passes Mars as they orbit around the Sun. During the most recent such pass late last year and early this year, Mars as usual, loomed large and bright. Also during this time, Mars appeared to move backwards in the sky, a phenomenon called retrograde motion. Pictured above is a series of images digitally stacked so that all of the stars images coincide. Here, Mars appears to trace out a loop in the sky. At the center of the loop, Earth passed Mars and the retrograde motion was the highest. Retrograde motion can also be seen for other Solar System planets.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 March 5 - Deep Auriga
Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs right through Auriga, the Charioteer. A good part of the ancient northern constellation's rich collection of nebulae and star clusters is featured in this expansive, 10 degree wide skyscape. Bright star Elnath lies near the bottom right, linking Auriga to another constellation, Taurus, the Bull. Three open star clusters, Charles Messier's M36, M37, and M38 line up in the dense star field above and left of Elnath, familiar to many binocular-equipped skygazers. But the deep exposure also brings out the reddish emission nebulae of star-forming regions IC 405, IC 410, and IC 417. E. E. Barnard's dark nebulae B34 and B226 just stand out against a brighter background. For help identifying even more of Auriga's deep sky highlights, put your cursor over the image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 20 - Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma
Explanation: If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun appear to move? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. This coming Tuesday, the Winter Solstice day in Earth's northern hemisphere, the Sun will be at the bottom of the analemma. Analemmas created from different latitudes would appear at least slightly different, as well as analemmas created at a different time each day. With even greater planning and effort, the series can include a total eclipse of the Sun as one of the images. Pictured is such a total solar eclipse analemma or Tutulemma - a term coined by the photographers based on the Turkish word for eclipse. The composite image sequence was recorded from Turkey starting in 2005. The base image for the sequence is from the total phase of a solar eclipse as viewed from Side, Turkey on 2006 March 29. Venus was also visible during totality, toward the lower right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 September 7 - Jupiter Over the Mediterranean
Explanation: This vacation included a sight to remember. Pictured above, a picturesque starscape capped a serene seascape as seen from Turkey this past August. In the above digitally stitched panorama, the Gelidonya Lighthouse shines in the foreground before a calm Mediterranean Sea. On the left, Jupiter is the brightest point in the image and since on the same side of the Sun as the Earth, was near its yearly brightest. Glowing just shy of magnitude -3, Jupiter was brighter than any star in the sky, and brighter even than Mars was during its famously bright opposition of 2003 August. On the right, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy fades into distant atmospheric haze above the horizon. Jupiter is nearing the closest part of its elliptical orbit to the Sun and so will appear even brighter during its next opposition in 2010 September.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 April 22 - Sky Panorama Over Lake Salda
Explanation: As midnight approached, a spectacular sky appeared. Such was the case last month from the shore of Lake Salda in southwestern Turkey. In the above night sky panorama, rocky sand covers the foreground, while building lights are visible across the lake. Looking up, the stars of Orion lie just ahead, while Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, appears to Orion's left. To Orion's right, just above the horizon, lies the Pleiades open star cluster. Arching across the sky is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. High in the center, the stars Castor and Pollux are visible. Lake Salda is famous partly for its blue color that is slightly discernable even in the above image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 December 16 - Orion Dawn Over Mount Nemrut
Explanation: What's that in front of Orion? Forty kilometers north of Kahta, Turkey, lies Mount Nemrut, a mountain adorned with the fragments of vast statues built over 2000 years ago. The stone sculptures once stood nearly 10 meters high and depicted lions, eagles, various ancient gods, and King Antiochus I Theos, who ruled Commagene from 86 BC to 38 BC. Ruins of the bodies of several sitting figures are visible on the hill above, illuminated by moonlight. Zeus' head can be found near the above image's center, while the king's head is seen next closest to the horizon. Visible far in the distance in this image, taken three months ago, is the familiar constellation of Orion. The red patch just below Orion's belt is the Orion Nebula, while the bright star to the left of Orion is Sirius. On the far left, a red and brightening horizon announces that the Sun is beginning to rise.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 22 - Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice
Explanation: Today is an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Tomorrow, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during the Vernal Equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings will see today, the day of the Autumnal Equinox.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 5 - Milky Way Road Trip
Explanation: In search of planets and the summer Milky Way, astronomer Tunç Tezel took an evening road trip. Last Saturday, after driving the winding road up Uludag, a mountain near Bursa, Turkey, he was rewarded by this beautiful skyview to the south. Near the center, bright planet Jupiter outshines the city lights below and the stars of the constellation Sagittarius. Above the mountain peaks, an arcing cloud bank seems to lead to the Milky Way's own cloudy apparition plunging into the distant horizon. In Turkish, Uludag means Great Mountain. Uludag was known in ancient times as the Mysian Olympus.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 July 18 - Jupiter over Ephesus
Explanation: A brilliant Jupiter shares the sky with the Full Moon tonight. Since Jupiter is near opposition, literally opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky, Jupiter will rise near sunset just like the Full Moon. Of course, opposition is also the point of closest approach, with Jupiter shining at its brightest and offering the best views for skygazers. Recorded late last month, this moving skyscape features Jupiter above the southeastern horizon and the marbled streets of the ancient port city of Ephesus, located in modern day Turkey. At the left is a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian. The beautiful night sky also includes the arc of the northern summer Milky Way. Lights on the horizon are from the nearby town of Selçuk. Clicking on the image will download the scene as a panorama.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 May 11 - Retrograde Mars
Explanation: Why would Mars appear to move backwards? Most of the time, the apparent motion of Mars in Earth's sky is in one direction, slow but steady in front of the far distant stars. About every two years, however, the Earth passes Mars as they orbit around the Sun. During the most recent such pass over the last year, the proximity of Mars made the red planet appear larger and brighter than usual. Also during this time, Mars appeared to move backwards in the sky, a phenomenon called retrograde motion. Pictured above is a series of images digitally stacked so that all of the stars images coincide. Here, Mars appears to trace out a loop in the sky. Near the top of the loop, Earth passed Mars and the retrograde motion was the highest. Retrograde motion can also be seen for other Solar System planets.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 15 - Moon over Byzantium
Explanation: Hiding near the Sun, a slender crescent Moon is a difficult but rewarding sight. Look to the right (scroll right) and you can spot one in this twilight panorama across the Bosporus Strait and along the skyline of the historic city of Istanbul. Recorded on March 8, the Moon is a mere 22 hours young. A thin, curved edge of the Moon's illuminated surface is just visible poised in the western sky at sunset above the walls of Topkapi Palace. The palace was built in the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the 15th century conquerer of the city that was then Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. The well-lit domed building immediately to the left of the palace is Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), a famous example of Byzantine architecture, now a museum. Still farther to the left is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 February 29 - Twelve Lunar Eclipses
Explanation: Welcome to the extra day in the Gregorian Calendar's leap year 2008! To celebrate, consider this grid of lunar eclipse pictures - starting in leap year 1996 and ending with February's eclipse - with the date in numerical year/month/day format beneath each image. Mostly based on visibility from a site in Turkey, the 3x4 matrix includes 11 of the 13 total lunar eclipses during that period, and fills out the grid with the partial lunar eclipse of September 2006. Still, as the pictures are at the same scale, they illustrate a noticeable variation in the apparent size of the eclipsed Moon caused by the real change in Earth-Moon distance around the Moon's elliptical orbit. The total phases are also seen to differ in color and darkness. Those effects are due to changes in cloud cover and dust content in the atmosphere reddening and refracting sunlight into Earth's shadow. Of course, the next chance to add a total lunar eclipse to this grid will come at the very end of the decade.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 October 2 - Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma
Explanation: If you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun appear to move? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken. The figure-8 path the Sun follows over the course of a year is called an analemma. With even greater planning and effort, the series can include a total eclipse of the Sun as one of the images. Pictured is such a total solar eclipse analemma or Tutulemma - a term coined by the photographers based on the Turkish word for eclipse. The composite image sequence was recorded from Turkey starting in 2005. The base image for the sequence is from the total phase of a solar eclipse as viewed from Side, Turkey on 2006 March 29. Venus was also visible during totality, toward the lower right.

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 June 7 - Great Mountain Moonrise
Explanation: On May 31st, a gorgeous Full Moon rose over Uludag Mountain in Bursa Province, Turkey. This alluring telephoto view of the twilight scene is a composite of images taken roughly every two minutes beginning shortly after Sunset, following the rising Moon as it moves up and to the right. Of course, as the Moon rises it gets brighter and changes color, becoming less reddened as the sight-line through the dense atmosphere is steadily reduced. Each of the final two exposures also captured a rising planet Jupiter. Like the Full Moon, the bright, wandering planet is nearly opposite the Sun in Earth's sky and was caught on the lefthand side of the picture in two places, just above a small peak in the mountain side. Intriguingly, some considered this Full Moon a Blue Moon.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 April 14 - Venus by the Lake
Explanation: Finding Venus in the night sky is not too hard these days. Now appearing as the evening star, Venus rules as the brightest celestial beacon in west just after sunset. And if you can find Venus tonight, you can also easily find the lovely Pleiades star cluster (aka M45) close by. In this serene skyview, recorded on Tuesday near Bolu, Turkey, Venus and the Pleiades are on the right, with brilliant Venus reflected in the calm waters of the small lake in the foreground. Left of Venus, the bright star Aldebaran anchors the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. Farther left are stars of the familiar constellation Orion with Rigel, at the foot of Orion, also reflected in the lake. Meanwhile, Sirius, in Canis Major, is the brightest star on the left side of the view. But the bright terrestrial light below Sirius is not a reflection, it's just a light near the lake shore.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 December 9 - Three Planets in Dawn Skies
Explanation: Three children of the Sun rise in the east in this peaceful dawn skyview recorded December 7th near Bolu, Turkey. Inner planet Mercury, fresh from its second transit of the 21st century, stands highest in the bright sky at the top right. Gas giant Jupiter lies below the cloud bank near picture center. A newsworthy Mars is also visible, right of Jupiter and just above the dark cloud bank. On Sunday, these planets will form a much tighter grouping before sunrise, while in the coming days the western sky after sunset will be ruled by brilliant planet Venus, also known as the evening star.

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 June 17 - Saturn, Mars, and the Beehive Cluster
Explanation: Grab a pair of binoculars and check out Saturn and Mars in the early evening sky tonight! Looking west shortly after sunset, your view could be similar to this one - recorded on June 14. But while this picture shows the two bright planets (Saturn at left) separated by around 1.5 degrees and neatly flanking M44, the Beehive Star Cluster, tonight should find those planets even closer together. In fact, Saturn and Mars are scheduled to achieve their closest alignment near sunset, approaching to within about half a degree. The Beehive will still stand out in the distant starry background. Still got those binoculars in hand? You might as well look for Mercury and Jupiter too.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 30 - 1006 AD: Supernova in the Sky
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, appeared in planet Earth's sky about 1,000 years ago today, in 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion is still visible to modern astronomers, but what did the supernova look like in 1006? In celebration of the millennial anniversary of SN1006, astronomer Tunc Tezel offers this intriguing suggestion, based on a photograph he took on February 22, 1998 from a site overlooking the Mediterranean south of Antalya, Turkey. On that date, bright Venus and a waning crescent Moon shone in the early morning sky. Adopting calculations which put the supernova's apparent brightness between Venus and the crescent Moon, he digitally superposed an appropriate new star in the picture. He placed the star at the supernova's position in the southerly constellation of Lupus and used the water's reflection of moonlight in the final image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 April 22 - Z is for Mars
Explanation: This composite of images spaced about a week apart - from late July 2005 (bottom right) through February 2006 (top left) - traces the retrograde motion of ruddy-colored Mars through planet Earth's night sky. On November 7th, 2005 the Red Planet was opposite the Sun in Earth's sky (at opposition). That date occurred at the center of this series with Mars near its closest and brightest. But Mars didn't actually reverse the direction of its orbit to trace out the Z-shape. Instead, the apparent backwards or retrograde motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. The familiar Pleiades star cluster lies at the upper left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 March 3 - Venus and Comet Pojmanski
Explanation: Shining brightly in the east at dawn, Venus dominates the sky in this view over a suburban landscape from Bursa, Turkey. An otherwise familiar scene for astronomer Tunc Tezel, his composite picture of the morning sky recorded on March 2nd also includes a surprise visitor to the inner solar system, Comet Pojmanski. Cataloged as C/2006 A1, the comet was discovered on January 2nd by Grzegorz Pojmanski of Warsaw University Astronomical Observatory in Poland. At the time very faint and tracking through southern skies, the comet has now moved north and grown just bright enough to be a good target for early-rising skygazers with binoculars. Enhanced and framed in this picture, the comet's tail has also grown to a length of several degrees. The comet will be at its closest approach to planet Earth, just over 100 million kilometers away, on March 5. For northern hemisphere observers in the next few days, the beginning of morning twilight really will be the best time to spot Comet Pojmanski.

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

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 January 7 - S is for Venus
Explanation: Planet Venus traced out this S shape in Earth's sky during 2004. Following the second planet from the Sun in a series of 29 images recorded from April 3rd through August 7th (top right to bottom left) of that year, astronomer Tunc Tezel constructed this composite illustrating the wandering planet's path against the background stars. The series reveals Venus' apparent retrograde motion transporting it from a brilliant evening star to morning's celestial beacon. Of course, in 2004, after sinking into the evening twilight but before rising above the predawn horizon, Venus was seen in silhouette against the Sun (near center) - the first transit of Venus since 1882. The next time Venus will wander across the solar disk is in 2012.

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

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 December 16 - Retrograde Mars
Explanation: Why would Mars appear to move backwards? Most of the time, the apparent motion of Mars in Earth's sky is in one direction, slow but steady in front of the far distant stars. About every two years, however, the Earth passes Mars as they orbit around the Sun. During the most recent such pass in August, Mars loomed particularly large and bright. Also during this time, Mars appeared to move backwards in the sky, a phenomenon called retrograde motion. Pictured above is a series of images digitally stacked so that all of the stars images coincide. Here, Mars appears to trace out a loop in the sky. At the top of the loop, Earth passed Mars and the retrograde motion was the highest. Retrograde motion can also be seen for other Solar System planets. In fact, by coincidence, the dotted line to the right of the image center is Uranus doing the same thing.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 April 3 - Jupiter in the Hive
Explanation: If you can find planet Jupiter in tonight's sky, then you can also find M44, popularly known as the Beehive star cluster. In fact, with a pair of binoculars most casual skygazers should find it easy to zero in on this celestial scene. It should be easy because after sunset Jupiter presently rules the night as the brightest "star" overhead. Now near the stationary part of its wandering path through the heavens, Jupiter will obligingly linger for a while at a spot only a degree or so southeast of M44 in the relatively faint constellation Cancer. Seen here in a photograph from March 28, Jupiter (lower left) is strongly overexposed with the stars of M44 swarming above and to the right. The picture approximately corresponds to the view when looking through a typical pair of binoculars. Jupiter is about 30 light-minutes from our fair planet while M44, one of the closest star clusters, is around 600 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 March 28 - 1006 AD: Supernova in the Sky
Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, appeared in planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion is still visible to modern astronomers, but what did the supernova look like in 1006? Astronomer TunÁ Tezel offers this suggestion, based on a photograph he took on February 22, 1998 from a site overlooking the Mediterranean south of Antalya, Turkey. On that date, bright Venus and a waning crescent Moon shone in the early morning sky. Adopting recent calculations which put the supernova's apparent brightness between Venus and the crescent Moon, he digitally superposed an appropriate new star in the picture. He placed the star at the supernova's position in the southerly constellation of Lupus and used the water's reflection of moonlight in the final image. Tezel hopes to view the total solar eclipse of 29 March 2006 from this same site -- on the 1,000th anniversary of Supernova 1006.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 December 20 - Jupiter and Saturn Pas de Deux
Explanation: Viewed from Earth, the solar system's planets do a cosmic dance that is hard to appreciate on any single night. But consider this well planned animated sequence combining 23 pictures taken at approximately 2 week intervals from June 2000 through May 2001. It reveals the graceful looping or retrograde motion of bright wanderers Jupiter (leftmost) and Saturn. Loitering among the background stars are the familiar Pleiades (above right) and V-shaped Hyades (below left) star clusters. The planets didn't actually loop by reversing the direction of their orbits, though. Their apparent retrograde motion is a reflection of the motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. Astronomer Tunc Tezel captured Jupiter and Saturn's "paired" retrograde loop in this remarkable series made after the close alignment of these gas giants in May 2000. The next opportunity to see these two planets dance such a pas de deux will be in the year 2020.

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 June 1 - Venus' Evening Loop
Explanation: From September 2000 through March 2001, astronomer Tunc Tezel patiently photographed the planet Venus on 25 different dates as it wandered through the evening twilight. The pictures were taken from the same spot on the campus of the Middle East Technical University near Ankara, Turkey, and timed so that for each photo the Sun was 7 degrees below the horizon. Carefully registering and combining the pictures, he produced this composite image -- a stunning demonstration of Venus' grand looping sky motion during its recent stint as planet Earth's evening star. As indicated, the first picture, taken September 28, 2000, finds Venus close to the western horizon and drifting south (left) with the passing days. By December however, Venus was climbing well above the horizon after sunset and in January 2001 it reached its maximum apparent distance (elongation) from the Sun. March found Venus falling from the evening sky while moving rapidly north, finally appearing (far right) as a faint dot against the sunset glow on March 24. This month, Venus rises before dawn as the brilliant morning star.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 January 18 - 2001: A Total Lunar Eclipse
Explanation: The first and only total lunar eclipse for the year 2001 occured on the evening of January 9/10 as the full Moon glided through Earth's shadow. Unlike a total solar eclipse, a total lunar eclipse is visible for anyone on the night side of the planet during the event. The night side for this geocentric celestial event included Europe, Asia, and Africa where the Moon could be seen immersed in the umbra or dark portion of Earth's shadow for about 62 minutes as it passed just north of the shadow's center. This dramatic telescopic photo of the eclipsed Moon was made near Ankara, Turkey close to the time of midpoint of the total phase. The fact that the northern (top) portion of the eclipsed Moon is clearly brighter, even near mid-totality, demonstrates that Earth's shadow is not uniformly dark.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 July 28 - Moon And Venus Share The Sky
Explanation: July is drawing to a close and in the past few days, some early morning risers could have looked east and seen a crescent Moon sharing the pre-dawn skies with planets Jupiter and Saturn. Planet Mercury will also pass about 2 degrees from the thin waning crescent Moon just before sunrise near the eastern horizon on Saturday, July 29. And finally, on the evening of July 31st, Venus will take its turn near the crescent Moon. But this time it will be a day-old crescent Moon near the western horizon, shortly after sunset. In fact, on July 31 (August 1 Universal Time) the Moon will occult (pass in front of) Venus for northwestern observers in North America. This telescopic picture taken on 31 December 1997, shows a lovely young crescent Moon and brilliant crescent Venus in the early evening sky near Bursa, Turkey.

And what about the Sun? On Sunday, July 30, a partial eclipse of the Sun will be visible from some locations in North America.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 11, 1999 - Mercury And The Moon
Explanation: Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and never moves far from our parent star in Earth's sky. Racing around its tight orbit, this well-done world is a little over 1/3 the diameter of Earth and is often lost to our view in the solar glare. But, just one day before the August 11 total solar eclipse, astronomer Tunc Tezel captured this fleeting view of a close conjunction of Mercury and the soon to be silhouetted Moon as seen from Turkey. Mercury at the lower right shines brightly in reflected sunlight while only a thin crescent of the almost new Moon is directly illuminated. The rest of the lunar nearside is faintly visible though, illuminated by light from an almost full Earth. On Monday, November 15th, Mercury will actually be seen to transit or pass across the disk of the Sun for well placed observers in the pacific hemisphere.


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