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Photos

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Crux

The shadow of the Cross

For people living in the Southern Hemisphere, the constellation Crux the Southern Cross is a familiar sight. The four brightest stars make the Cross asterism easy to see. Somewhat less familiar, though, is a dark patch of the night sky adjacent to the Cross, which an observer can see readily at a site with minimal light pollution. This large “hole” in the Milky Way is actually a dark nebula that astronomers call the Coalsack. This region is a cloud of light-absorbing dust and gas at a distance of about 600 light-years with a radius of about 30 light-years. Because of its apparent proximity and orientation to the Southern Cross, it is sometimes aptly referred to as the “Shadow of the Cross.” It is not physically connected to Crux’s stars in any way, but this chance alignment is definitely noteworthy and an interesting coincidence. (Canon EOS 50D DSLR, 50mm lens, ISO 2000, 60-second tracked exposure)

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