Stunning Lyrids Over Earth at Night
On the night of April 21, the 2012 Lyrid meteor shower peaked in the skies over Earth. While NASA allsky cameras were looking up at the night skies, astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station trained his video camera on Earth below. Footage from that night is now revealing breathtaking images of Earth at night with meteors ablating -- or burning up -- in the atmosphere.
The downlinked image to the right shows a very probable Lyrid in a six-second exposure, taken on April 22, 2012 at 5:34:22 UT. The International Space Station position was over 88.5 W, 19.9 N at an altitude of 392 km. NASA astronomer Bill Cooke mapped the meteor to the star field -- seen in this annotated image -- and confirmed that the meteor originated from the Lyrid radiant.
The image is rotated so that the north celestial pole (NCP) is roughly in the up direction. The lights of Florida are clearly visible to the right of the meteor. Cuba, the Florida Keys and the eastern Gulf Coast shoreline are also visible. Some brilliant flashes of lightning are also prevalent in the image.
Image credit: NASA/JSC/D. Pettit