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.

2002 April 4
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Ikeya-Zhang: Comet Over Colorado
Credit & Copyright: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College)

Explanation: Comet Ikeya-Zhang ("ee-KAY-uh JONG") has become a most photogenic comet. This lovely early evening view of the comet in Rocky Mountain skies looks northwest over ridges and low clouds. The time exposure was recorded on March 31st from an 8,000 foot elevation near Yampa, Colorado, USA. Sporting a sweeping yellowish dust tail and blue ion tail eight to ten degrees long, Ikeya-Zhang is nestled near the horizon in the northern constellation of Andromeda. To the comet's left is the bright star Mirach or Beta Andromedae while the stretched celestial fuzzball to the comet's right is M31 or the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest bright spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. As the days pass, Comet Ikeya-Zhang's apparent motion through the sky is towards the right in this image. Tonight, comet-watchers blessed with clear skies should find Ikeya-Zhang posing perfectly for binoculars and cameras just above M31, less than two degrees from the center of the bright galaxy.

Tomorrow's picture: supernova gamma-ray burst

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.