Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2005 July 14

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Star Trails Over Vienna
Credit & Copyright: Peter Wienerroither (U. Wien)

Explanation: As the Earth spins on its axis, the sky seems to rotate around us. This motion, called diurnal motion, produces the beautiful concentric trails traced by stars during time exposures. In the middle of the picture is the North Celestial Pole (NCP), easily identified as the point in the sky at the center of all the star trail arcs. The star Polaris, commonly known as the North Star, made the very short bright circle near the NCP. Full circle star trails are pictured over Vienna, Austria. This image, a relatively short exposure followed by a digital trick, could not have been taken during a single night because 24-hours are needed for one full rotation, and the Sun is sure to dominate the frame at some time.

Tomorrow's picture: inner solar system

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