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.

2018 January 18
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Blue Comet in the Hyades
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)

Explanation: Stars of the Hyades cluster are scattered through this mosaic spanning over 5 degrees on the sky toward the constellation Taurus. Presently cruising through the Solar System, the remarkably blue comet C/2016 R2 PanSTARRS is placed in the wide field of view using image data from January 12. With the apex of the V-shape in the Hyades cluster positioned near the top center, bright Aldebaran, alpha star of Taurus, anchors the frame at the lower right. A cool red giant, Aldebaran is seen in orange hues in the colorful starfield. While the stars of the Hyades are gathered 151 light-years away, Aldebaran lies only 65 light-years distant and so is separate from the cluster stars. On January 12, C/2016 R2 was over 17 light-minutes from planet Earth and nearly 24 light-minutes from the Sun. Its blue tinted tail largely due to CO+ gas fluorescing in sunlight, the head or coma of the comet appears with a slightly greenish hue, likely emission from diatomic carbon.

Tomorrow's picture: pixels in space

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