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Emily LakdawallaAugust 15, 2011

Looking down on a shooting star

This photo is making the rounds of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and whatever other social network you care to name today. It was shot by astronaut Ron Garan from the Space Station, and it's a meteor seen from above. Way cool.

Perseid from space

NASA

Perseid from space
Astronaut Ronald Garan took this photo from the space station on August 13, 2011. The bright trail of a meteor burning up in the atmosphere is very likely a Perseid, a tiny piece of comet Swift-Tuttle, whose trail of dust produces a reliable meteor shower every year around August 12 and 13.

Garan shared it initially via Twitter, and it's pretty much on every space blog today. A couple of bloggers who've added value to the pic include Phil Plait, who tells us the odds that it is a Perseid and not something else (1 in 12) and the likelihood of the Station getting hit by a meteor large enough to cause a visible fireball (not very big); and Daniel Fischer, who dug up various other images of "shooting stars" seen from space. My favorite of his links is one to this video, the STS-61 highlight reel. (STS-61 was the first Hubble servicing mission.) At about 21:35 they show another bright meteor streaking across the sky over the night lights of Houston. Keep watching the video and at about 22:30 you'll see a lovely little image of Hubble, just a point of light from the Shuttle, which the astronauts referred to as their "morning star," following them in orbit.

Read more: Hubble Space Telescope, pretty pictures, meteors, human spaceflight, International Space Station

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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla (2017, alternate)
Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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