A Cosmic Flash of Light Makes a Great Shot

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 1 2014 7:30 AM

Milky Meteor

Sometimes, you just need a little flash of inspiration to make your day go a bit better. Even if that flash is caused by a chunk of space rock the size of a grape slamming into Earth’s atmosphere at 50,000 miles per hour and converting its considerable kinetic energy into light and heat in mere seconds.

Like, say, this.

meteor
A bit of space debris does make for a meatier photo. Click to bolidenate.

Photo by Mark Gee, used by permission

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Astrophotographer Mark Gee was about 20 minutes outside of Wellington, New Zealand, capturing the Milky Way rising over the ocean when that bit of cosmic debris made its showy demise. Normally, this would have been a lovely shot of the center of our galaxy with Antares glowing orange and various gas clouds dotting the stream of stars. But as chance would have it our planet was in the right place at the right time to intersect that small rock, and Gee was also at the right place and the right time to capture it on his camera.

He’s taken incredible photos of the night sky before, some of which take incredible care and planning to get the stunning results seen. But this time, a happy coincidence took a good shot and made it great.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!