Starburst: Photographer Nao Tharp Captures Rare Meteoroid Explosion in Time-Lapse Video

The beautiful short time-lapse video below was captured in California’s Red Rock Canyon state park in mid December of 2015 by photographer Nao Tharp. Shooting alone in the desert, Tharp had his camera trained on the glittering night sky and was using time-lapse photography to capture the constellations gracefully crossing the heavens.

Tharp’s ultimate goal that night was to capture images of the Geminid meteor shower and he wasn’t disappointed as trails of light quickly flashed overhead. The highlight of his evening, however, occurred when one particularly bright flash vanished in a dramatic puff of cosmic smoke—revealing that one of the meteors had exploded upon entering earth’s atmosphere.

“It was a bright spark illuminated the entire rim of eroded sandstone canyon, followed by orange fume floating in the sky,” Tharp told PetaPixel. “According to my calculations based on the time lapse setting and EXIF data from the resulting images, the glowing orange fume floated in the air for a matter of 38.5 minutes until it framed out.”

The video below provides various views of this incredible event (at different speeds and magnifications) to provide a fantastic look at this rare phenomenon.

See more of Tharp's work on his YouTube channel and his Flickr page.