Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

November 23, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

A Leonid Meteor Explodes
Credit: ROTSE Team

Explanation: Click on the above image and watch a Leonid meteor explode. The tremendous heat generated by the collision of a small sand-bit moving at 70 kilometers/second with the Earth's upper atmosphere causes the rock-fragment to heat up, glow brightly, and disintegrate. In some cases, the meteor literally explodes leaving a visible cloud that dissipates slowly. The above image shows just such an explosion for a bright meteor from the recent Leonid Meteor Shower. Clicking on the above image will start a (4.2 Megabtye) movie of thirty 1-minute exposures showing the explosion cloud dissipate. Each movie frame, taken with the ROTSE telescope early 17 November, is 8 degrees across - 16 times the diameter of the full moon. Near the middle of the sequence, a less bright meteor moves through the field.

Tomorrow's picture: Seven Leonids Over Wise Observatory

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.