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.

2023 July 4
Planet Venus is pictured in ultraviolet light. The 
spherical planet appears circular in tan colors with hints
of blue. Complex cloud patterns are evident. 
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Aurora over Icelandic Waterfall
Image Credit & Copyright: Cari Letelier

Explanation: It seemed like the sky exploded. The original idea was to photograph an aurora over a waterfall. After waiting for hours under opaque clouds, though, hope was running out. Others left. Then, unexpectedly, the clouds moved away. Suddenly, particles from a large solar magnetic storm were visible impacting the Earth's upper atmosphere with full effect. The night sky filled with colors and motion in a thrilling auroral display. Struggling to steady the camera from high Earthly winds, the 34 exposures that compose the featured image were taken. The resulting featured composite image shows the photogenic Godafoss (Goðafoss) waterfall in northern Iceland in front of a very active aurora in late February. The solar surface explosion that expelled the energetic particles occurred a few days before. Our Sun is showing an impressive amount of surface activity as it approaches solar maximum, indicating that more impressive auroras are likely to appear in Earth's northern and southern sky over the next few years.

Tomorrow's picture: very large map

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