Great balls of fire: The amazing video that shows a meteor exploding

Meteor Chung Atmosphere Explosion
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The extraordinary moment a meteor exploded in the Earth's upper atmosphere has been accidentally captured by a U.S. photographer and designer.

Michael K. Chung was photographing the 2013 Perseids Meteor Shower last week when he managed to record the rarely-seen event of a meteor breaking apart in the Earth's atmosphere.

Initially the designer thought he had photographed a meteor explosion and the debris scattering during his time lapse sequence, but in fact he captured the rocky body being 'torn apart' in the upper atmosphere.

Astronomer Daniel Fischer told Universe Today that Mr Chung captured: 'a persistent train after a Perseids fireball, being torn apart by upper atmosphere wind shear.'

The meteor therefore did explode but did not leave debris behind. Instead it left an expanding ring of glowing hot gas called a 'persistent train'.

The charged gas has been heated by compression caused by the meteor and sheds electrons, similar to how a neon sign works, according to Mr Chung.

Michael K. Chung was photographing the 2013 Perseids Meteor Shower last week from his garden in California when he managed to record the unusual event of a meteor breaking apart in the Earth's atmosphere (pictured)

Meteors explode in this way relatively often but the events are not regularly documented.

He said the event probably lasted about 20 minutes as he was taking 20 second exposures every 22 seconds.

Mr Chung filmed the explosion using his Canon 7D 18 megapixel digital single-lens reflex camera and zoomed in on the action to film the explosion at 24 frames per second and 12 frames per second.

He said he couldn't believe what he saw when processing the images of the Perseid meteor shower.

Mr Chung said he took the video early in the morning on 12 August from his garden in Victorville, California.

He said: 'The fade to white is not an edit - it is overexposure due to the sun coming up. From what I can tell, the timelapse sequence of the explosion and expanding debris span an actual time of approximately 20 minutes.'

One astronomy expert who looked at the video confirmed it is legitimate.

David Dickinson said: 'What cinches it for me is that the meteor was moving in the right direction for a Perseid...I see Perseus rising to the right, the plane of the Milky Way and Andromeda just above centre'

The astronomer said he has witnessed several meteors that leave smoke trains in their wake, which he examines with binoculars ( via ).