The Bolide: Make a "Very Light" Wish

June 03, 2022

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Photographer: Orazio Mezzio

Summary Author: Orazio Mezzio; Cadan Cummings

Earlier this year, I was able to observe and photograph a rare manifestation of a shooting star: the bolide. Oftentimes interchangeably called a fireball, a bolide is a fragment of rock, comet, or asteroid that burns up or explodes in Earth’s upper atmosphere. These objects are still considered meteors, but are much larger in size and brightness. Their brilliant flare (around apparent magnitude -14 or brighter) is produced as the object careens through the atmosphere and disintegrates as the surface weakens due to incredible external pressure. As is seen in the photo above, the bolide is bright even compared to the red supergiant Antares and the other stars in the constellation Scorpius.


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