Watch a Meteor Fall to Earth From an Astronaut's Point of View
Astronaut Paolo Nespoli happened to catch such a sight while looking down at the Earth from the International Space Station, recording video of a fireball very briefly whizzing by while the ISS passed over the Atlantic Ocean. It's a short moment, almost at a "blink and you'll miss it" level, but that's why it's so rare to catch this sort of thing on camera - that, and we only have so many astronauts up in orbit to take photos. But it's worth a watch.
Since Nespoli wanted to play a game and see if viewers down on Earth could spot it themselves, he doesn't say when in the video it pops up. So if you want to test whether you can find it on your own, we're saving the timestamp of when the meteor appears for after the video. So check that if you don't want to play, and just want to see the fireball.
We see many meteors from the @Space_Station but I was never able to get one on camera... this time I got lucky and filmed a #fireball, a very bright and fast meteoroid falling to #Earth at about 40km/s! Can you spot it? #VITAmission https://t.co/gbMuhPqbL8 pic.twitter.com/YyZtUc22Oj— Paolo Nespoli (@astro_paolo) November 16, 2017
The fireball in question is onscreen very briefly, at 0:08 seconds into the video in the top right corner. Something else appears in the same corner at 1:14 as well, just before the sun comes into view - Detlef Koschny from the European Space Agency suspects that second flash is Venus, but the first was almost certainly a small meteor. The ESA later posted the footage on YouTube in slightly better quality.
According to ESA's Rüdiger Jehn and Koschny, the fireball was likely a small decimeter-sized chunk of space rock (a decimeter is just under four inches) that was traveling at a fast rate of 40 kilometers per second (25 miles per second). Even for meteors, that's impressively fast, as they typically enter the atmosphere at half that speed.
Even though the footage only contains a split second of actual meteors, it's easily worth watching the whole thing just to see more cool sights from an astronaut's vantage point. You can also see flashes of lightning from the top of storm clouds, and sprawling city lights once the ISS passes over South Africa. Just some perks of being an astronaut.