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 March 1
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The Lunar X (V)
Image Credit & Copyright: Henrik Adamsson

Explanation: The striking X in this lunarscape is easily visible in binoculars or a small telescope, but not too many have seen it. The catch is, this lunar X is fleeting and only apparent in the hours before the Moon's first quarter phase. Along the shadow line between lunar day and night, the X illusion is produced by a configuration of craters seen here toward the left, Blanchinus, La Caille and Purbach. Near the Moon's first quarter phase, an astronaut standing close to the craters' position would see the slowly rising Sun very near the horizon. Temporarily, crater walls would be in sunlight while crater floors would still be in darkness. Seen from planet Earth, contrasting sections of bright walls against the dark floors by chance look remarkably like an X. This sharp image of the Lunar X was captured on February 22nd. For extra credit, sweep your gaze along the lunar terminator and you can also spot the Lunar V.

Tomorrow's picture: scene from a rotating planet

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