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.
2017 May 27
Explanation: Sweeping through this stunning field of view, Comet 71P/Clark really is in the foreground of these cosmic clouds. The 2 panel telescopic mosaic is color enhanced and is about 5 degrees (10 full moons) across. It captures the faint comet's position on the night of May 23/24 over 5 light-minutes from Earth, very near the line-of-sight to bright star Antares and the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. In the frame Antares, also known as Alpha Scorpii, is at bottom center surrounded by a dusty cosmic cloud reflecting the cool giant star's yellowish light. Globular star cluster M4 shines just right of Antares, but M4 lies some 7,000 light-years away compared to Antares' 500 light-year distance. Slightly closer than Antares, Rho Ophiuchi's bluish starlight is reflected by the dust in molecular clouds toward the top. You can spot the small coma and short tail of the comet as a faint smudge near the center of the left edge of the frame. Just look for the comet's striking greenish color, produced as diatomic carbon molecules fluoresce in sunlight.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.