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.

2016 May 20
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 the highest resolution version available.

3D Mercury Transit
Image Credit & Copyright: Stefan Seip (TWAN)

Explanation: On May 9, innermost planet Mercury crossed IN FRONT of the Sun. Though pictures project the event in only two dimensions, a remarkable three dimensional perspective on the transit is possible by free viewing this stereo pair. The images were made 23 minutes apart and rotated so that Mercury's position shifts horizontally between the two. As a result, Mercury's orbital motion produced an exaggerated parallax simulating binocular vision. Between the two exposures, the appropriately named planet's speedy 47.4 kilometre per second orbital velocity actually carried it over 65,000 kilometres. Taken first, the left image is intended for the right eye, so a cross-eyed view is needed to see Mercury's tiny silhouette suspended in the foreground. Try it. Merging the text below the images helps.

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Tomorrow's picture: opposite the Sun

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