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 December 12
A night sky filled with stars is shown behind a picturesque foreground.
The foreground contains rounded rocks and a person before a distant sea.
The background contains bands of the Milky Way and bright aurora.
Please see the explanation for more detailed information.

Aurora and Milky Way over Norway
Image Credit & Copyright: Giulio Cobianchi

Explanation: What are these two giant arches across the sky? Perhaps the more familiar one, on the left, is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This grand disk of stars and nebulas here appears to encircle much of the southern sky. Visible below the stellar arch is the rusty-orange planet Mars and the extended Andromeda galaxy. But this night had more! For a few minutes during this cold arctic night, a second giant arch appeared encircling part of the northern sky: an aurora. Auroras are much closer than stars as they are composed of glowing air high in Earth's atmosphere. Visible outside the green auroral arch is the group of stars popularly known as the Big Dipper. The featured digital composite of 20 images was captured in mid-November 2022 over the Lofoten Islands in Norway.

APOD Year in Review (2023): RJN's Night Sky Network Lecture
Tomorrow's picture: deep heart

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