Museum of Time
a visitor from space
 
In April 2002, a bright comet appeared between the stars of the Milky Way. It was called Ikeya Zhang (after its discoverers) and low over the horizon, it remained visible for a few weeks.
Here you see the comet more in detail. It only measures ten kilometers in diameter but it is hidden in a huge cloud of water vapor that formed when the icy comet approached the sun. The thin tails are millions of kilometers long and show because sunlight reflects against them.

Next to the comet our neighbour galaxy M31, the Andromeda nebula, is visible.
The apparent closeness of both objects is concidental: the light of the comet took less than an hour to reach us while the light of the Andromeda galaxy travelled more than a million years before it got here.
This very wide angle picture was exposed for half an hour. Apart from the comet and the Milky Way, it also shows the zodiacal light as a bright yellow glow near the horizon.

Zodiacal light can only be observed from very dark locations and comes from sunlight that reflects against floating dust particles in the inner solar system.

In the lower left corner of the picture you see the constellation of Orion.
 
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