The best view of the Perseid meteor shower is from space
It's a great week for celestial gazing with both a supermoon and the year's best meteor shower lighting things up, but the best view is also from out of this world.
This week is a doozy for night sky watchers, with arguably the best meteor shower of the year in the Perseids (peaking tonight) and a concurrent supermoon to boot. While there's plenty of opportunity to play the role of bug-eyed meteor paparazzo here on Earth, some of the best views of the streaking psuedo-stars may be had from a little higher up, aboard the International Space Station.
Astronaut Ron Garan took the above shot from aboard the ISS in 2011, while circling the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour. At the moment the picture was taken, the station was over interior China heading in the direction of Beijing.
NASA has since analyzed the photo and believes that the bright spec caught from afar and above that evening was a piece of comet debris only 1 centimeter in diameter colliding with our atmosphere at 132,000 miles per hour. Sounds like there's a space action movie franchise opportunity in there someplace: "Fast and Furious: Perseid Drift" perhaps?
Here's a closer look at what happens when a space rock the size of your fingernail begins to feel a little friction while traveling at roughly 1/5,000th the speed of light.