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 October 6
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Trifid, Lagoon, and Mars
Image Credit & Copyright: Mohammad Nouroozi

Explanation: Bright nebulae and star clusters along this 5 degree wide field of view are popular stops on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. Catalogued by 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier, M20, the colourful Trifid Nebula, and M8, the expansive Lagoon Nebula, are at upper left and centre. Both are well-known star forming regions about 5,000 light-years distant. Just passing through the same field of view on September 29, the yellowish star lined up with M8 and M20 at the lower right is actually Mars, close to 8.8 light-minutes from Earth on that date. That distance is nearly equivalent to 1 astronomical unit or the distance from Earth to Sun. Mars is overexposed in the image, with visible diffraction spikes created by the telescope mirror supports. Of course, Mars has long been known to wander through planet Earth's night skies.

Tomorrow's picture: Hydrogen Clouds of M33

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