Astronomy Picture of the Day

Halloween and the Ghost Head Nebula

Halloween's origin is ancient and astronomical. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the ...

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3D Bennu

Put on your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid 101955 Bennu. Shaped like a spinning toy top with boulders littering its rough surface, the tiny Solar System world is about one Empire State Building (less than 500 meters) across. Frames ...

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A Comet and a Crab

This pretty field of view spans over 2 degrees or 4 full moons on the sky, filled with stars toward the constellation Taurus, the Bull. Above and right of center in the frame you can spot the faint fuzzy reddish appearance of Messier 1 (M1), also ...

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SH2-308: The Dolphin-Head Nebula

Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,000 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major) and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. ...

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Lucy Launches to Eight Asteroids

Why would this mission go out as far as Jupiter -- but then not visit Jupiter? Lucy's plan is to follow different leads about the origin of our Solar System than can be found at Jupiter -- where Juno now orbits. Jupiter is such a massive planet ...

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Palomar 6: Globular Star Cluster

Where did this big ball of stars come from? Palomar 6 is one of about 200 globular clusters of stars that survive in our Milky Way Galaxy. These spherical star-balls are older than our Sun as well as older than most stars that orbit in our ...

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Earthshine Moon over Sicily

Why can we see the entire face of this Moon? When the Moon is in a crescent phase, only part of it appears directly illuminated by the Sun. The answer is earthshine, also known as earthlight and the da Vinci glow. The reason is that the rest ...

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The Einstein Cross Gravitational Lens

Most galaxies have a single nucleus -- does this galaxy have four? The strange answer leads astronomers to conclude that the nucleus of the surrounding galaxy is not even visible in this image. The central cloverleaf is rather light emitted ...

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The Moona Lisa

Only natural colors of the Moon in planet Earth's sky appear in this creative visual presentation. Arranged as pixels in a framed image, the lunar disks were photographed at different times. Their varying hues are ultimately due to reflected ...

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NGC 289: Swirl in the Southern Sky

About 70 million light-years distant, gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 289 is larger than our own Milky Way. Seen nearly face-on, its bright core and colorful central disk give way to remarkably faint, bluish spiral arms. The extensive arms sweep well ...

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