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 2

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Three Planets by the Sea
Credit & Copyright: Damian Sparkes

Explanation: On Tuesday, June 28th, the setting Sun flooded the horizon with a beautiful warm light in this view from the beach beside the pier at Brighton in Adelaide, South Australia. The Sun also illuminated three planets gathered in the western sky, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn. From this perspective Mercury is at the highest point in the celestial triangle, brilliant Venus is just below, and Saturn stands farther to the left and below the close pair. Of course, the planets only appear close together on the sky but are actually quite far apart in space. The orbits of Mercury and Venus are both interior to Earth's orbit, while gas giant Saturn lies in the outer solar system, over nine astronomical units from the Sun. Late next week, Venus and Mercury will share western skies with the young crescent Moon.

Tomorrow's picture: A Swift look at Tempel 1

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