Thursday, September 27, 2018

During the recent Perseid shower, photographer...

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During the recent Perseid shower, photographer Petr Horálek caught an awesome timelapse of an exploding meteor and the vortex ring it created. This is a type of persistent train left when meteors pass through the upper atmosphere. The exact physics are not well understood because such events are difficult to observe; catching them at all is basically just happenstance. But one interpretation is that we’re seeing trails of plasma left by the ionization of parts of the meteor. When the meteor hits the upper atmosphere, there’s an extremely strong hypersonic shock wave. The jump in temperature across that shock wave is enough to pull atoms apart, creating a plasma. The train left by this meteor’s demise was faintly visible even an hour after the fireball. (Image credit: P. Horálek, video version; via APOD; submitted by Andrea S.)

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