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.

2011 May 14
See Explanation.
Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version.
Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution version

The Little Dipper
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Explanation: At 2nd magnitude, Polaris is far from the brightest star in the night sky. But it is the brightest star at the left of this well-composed, starry mosaic spanning about 23 degrees across the northern sky asterism dubbed the Little Dipper. Polaris is famous as the North Pole Star, a friend to navigators and astrophotographers alike, but it's not located exactly at the North Celestial Pole (NCP) either. It's presently offset from the NCP by 0.7 degrees. Sliding your cursor over the picture will locate Polaris and the NCP as well as other stars of the Little Dipper. The stars are shown with their proper names preceded by their greek alphabet designations within the ancient constellation Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. Dust clouds suspended above the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy are also faintly visible throughout the wide field of view.

Tomorrow's picture: galaxy hat

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