Gorgeous Astrophoto: Meteor Over Chile

The entire universe in blog form
April 30 2014 7:30 AM

Meteor Over ALMA

Sometimes it pays to be lucky. The European Southern Observatory posted this incredible shot by the accomplished astrophotographer (and friend of the blog) Christoph Malin taken on March 25, 2014. Feast your eyes on this!

Cosmic Fireball Falling Over ALMA
The journey of a billion years ends in the flash of an instant. Click to enablatenate.

Photo by ESO/Christoph Malin

Judging from the brightness, I’d guess the meteor was probably from a bit of cosmic detritus the size of your fist, maybe a bit smaller. It looks like it was illuminating high, thin cirrus clouds as it fell (that jibes with the silhouetted clouds you can just see to the right of it). The different colors are interesting; that may be due to different materials in the meteoroid (the solid bit) incandescing as it heated up.

Advertisement

The telescopes in the foreground belong to the ALMA observatory, an array of dishes that are sensitive to light at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths (between infrared and radio wavelengths). Malin was just trying to get the lovely starry background there, and got lucky with the meteor.

Speaking of which, the bright red “star” in the image is Mars, and the lovely blue one next to it is Spica (both of which played second fiddle to the Moon in the eclipse recently). At the upper right you can see the fuzzy pink glow of the Eta Carina nebula, one of the most chaotic and nasty parts of our galaxy, where stars are being born at prodigious rates.

This photo was done as part of the ESO’s Ultra-HD expedition, and I’m glad Malin was along for that. He’s highly skilled and had a great location. But luck (really probability x time) clearly plays its role, too.

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

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.