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.

July 23, 1996

Hale-Bopp, Jupiter, and the Milky Way
Credit and Copyright: W. Keel, UA

Explanation: Shining brightly, the mighty Jupiter rules this gorgeous Kodacolor photo of the Milky Way near Sagittarius. Astronomer Bill Keel took the picture earlier this month (July 7) while standing near the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea contemplating the sky in the direction of the center of the Galaxy (right of picture center). In addition to the gas giant planet, which is well placed for evening viewing, the image contains an impressive sampler of celestial goodies. Many famous emission nebulae are visible as reddish patches - M16, the Eagle nebula, is just above and right of center, with the Horseshoe nebula, M17, just below it and farther to the right. Also, look for the Lagoon Nebula, M8, as the brightest red patch at the right of the picture with the Trifid Nebula, M20, just above it and to the left. The milky glow of distant unresolved stars in the plane of our Galaxy (thus the term Milky Way) runs through the image cut by dark, absorbing, interstellar dust clouds. The much anticipated comet Hale-Bopp is also clearly visible. Where's the comet? Click on the picture to view the comet's location flanked by superposed vertical lines. The comet was discovered while still beyond the orbit of Jupiter a year ago today independently by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp. Astronomers monitoring Hale-Bopp's activity report that having now brightened to almost 6th magnitude it is still on track for becoming an extremely bright naked-eye comet in early 1997.

Tomorrow's picture: COMPTEL Explores The Radioactive Sky

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