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Exit Strategy [C_040579+82]

Two bits of dust perhaps the size of a grain of sand exit space and make their way toward terra firma. In so doing they leave a blazing colorful trail.


The bits of formerly space dust are cast offs of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Around August 12 of every year the earth passes through the debris of the comet much like a mini-van passes through a swarm of moths. When the earth smacks into the debris we get colorful ephemeral fire in the sky that can be downright impressive. And unlike moth strikes no trip to the car wash is needed because the bits and grains of the comet are incinerated in our atmosphere. Curiously many of the Perseid meteors are green and red sometimes very noticeably so even when viewing by eye and not with a camera. The colors come from the compounds that are burned up. Copper, Manganese, Boron and several other elements burn green.


This image (which is a composite of two shots taken less than 90 seconds apart) shows two fiery meteors each taking a different path outward. The "radiant" of the meteor shower is near the middle of the photo in the constellation Perseus. Because the place where the meteors appear to come from is Perseus, the meteor shower is called the "Perseid" meteor shower. It's one of the better, more predictable showers every year. The other best bet is the Geminids around December 13th or 14th. The Geminid meteors are believed to originate from debris of the asteroid: 3200 Phaethon (which in fact may have been a comet itself before it lost all its crunchy hydrocarbon ice shell).


If you'd like to try to capture a meteor, we have an article that will help but chances are very good you won't succeed.


© Copyright 2012, Steven Christenson


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Taken on August 12, 2012