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Science  17 Apr 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5362, pp. 351
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5362.351c

Astronomical per diem. Storm clouds on Mars, a cluster of jewellike stars, the first lunar footprint, a bruise-colored nebula, Hale-Bopp streaking above mountaintops, the eerie aurora over Alaska—these are just some of the eye-popping images that appear on a calendar called the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) (antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html).

“It's a bit of everything,” says Jerry Bonnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who launched APOD with colleague Robert Nemiroff in June 1995. “We look for a great image in a press release or some brief bit of science we could explain.” That ranges from pics fresh off the Hubble Space Telescope to stills from the Apollo missions. APOD's creators add educational value as well by writing captions with links to other scientific sites. For example, the 4 March aurora picture, sent in by an Alaskan fan, has URLs for home pages on auroras and spruce trees. “Bob and I have day jobs, so it's pretty much a spare time kind of thing,” says Bonnell, a high-energy gamma ray astronomer. But one fringe benefit of running APOD, he says, is that it keeps him up on research news outside his corner of astronomy. “It helps me pay attention.”

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