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.

March 15, 1996

The McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory
Credit and Copyright: Bill Keel, University of Alabama

Explanation: This odd-looking structure silhouetted in the foreground houses the three largest solar telescopes in the world. Located in Kitt Peak, Arizona, the largest telescope inside the McMath-Pierce Facility is 1.6-meters in diameter and contains only mirrors. The telescope contains no windows or lenses because focusing bright sunlight would overheat them. Visible in the background of this sunrise photo are the Moon and Venus. The telescopes are used in many research projects including determining the Sun's structure, researching the cause of the solar corona, monitoring Sun-spots and solar flares, and observing bright planets and comets near the Sun. The telescopes even help monitor the Earth's atmospheric content of ozone and CFCs!

Information: The Scale of the Universe Debate in April 1996
Tomorrow's picture: Spiral Galaxy M90

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