Chemicals Glow as a Meteor Disintegrates
Copyright: Michael Kleinburger
Meteors can be colorful. While the human eye usually cannot discern many colors, cameras often can. Pictured here is a fireball, a disintegrating meteor that was not only one of the brightest the photographer has ever seen, but colorful. The meteor was captured by chance in mid-July with a camera set up on Hochkar Mountain in Austria to photograph the central band of our Milky Way galaxy. The radiant grit, likely cast off by a comet or asteroid long ago, had the misfortune to enter Earth’s atmosphere. Colors in meteors usually originate from ionized chemical elements released as the meteor disintegrates, with blue-green typically originating from magnesium, calcium radiating violet, and nickel glowing green. Red, however, typically originates from energized nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. This bright meteoric fireball was gone in a flash — less than a second — but it left a wind-blown ionization trail that remained visible for almost a minute.
Courtesy of NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day