On the 31st of May, 2019 I was on a road trip through the state of Utah. The goal of this road trip was to shoot as many astro photography timelapse sequences as possible (more information about that trip can be found here). Little did I know that I would capture a huge meteor explosion.
Any time in the past that I've gone out to shoot astro photos or timelapses I've captured at least a few meteors. These are extremely common and happen literally all the time.
What I shot on the 31st of May was a much more rare event. I captured a bolide, an extremely bright and intense meteor or fireball.
Check out the bolide timelapse video below.
I started the timelapse sequence at 1 AM. Every 9 seconds my camera would automatically take a photo with an 8 second exposure. (more info about what camera settings and gear I used are at the bottom of this post)
At exactly 01:59:50 AM a huge, green flash struck across my camera's composition. I was sound asleep in the lodge pictured at the bottom of the frame, completely oblivious to what I had just recorded.
As the meteoroid entered our atmosphere at a speed estimated to be between 25,000 mph and 160,000 mph (40,000 kph and 257,000 kph) it broke apart and exploded with tremendous energy. What was left behind was a trail of dust and ionised gas.
All of this action happened as I was fast asleep in our cozy cabin.
Around 5am it was getting too bright outside to still capture the milky way so I got out of bed and grabbed my camera, then crawled back in to my warm bed (it was near freezing outside).
A few hours later I woke up and scroll through the images to see if I had captured any interesting meteors. You can imagine how I felt when I spotted not only the enormous green fireball, but also the persistent train that lingered for well over 30 minutes after the meteor exploded!
From the American Meteor Society's website: Fireballs can develop two types of trails behind them: trains and smoke trails. A train is a glowing trail of ionized and excited air molecules left behind after the passage of the meteor. Most trains last only a few seconds, but on rare occasions a train may last up to several minutes. A train of this duration can often be seen to change shape over time as it is blown by upper atmospheric winds.
There is a ton of information available about bolides on the website of the American Meteor Society here: https://www.amsmeteors.org/fireballs/faqf/#1
I have recorded bolides in the past but they were much smaller and the trains were way less visible.
The gear I used to capture this bolide was the Canon 6DMkII with the Canon 24mm f1.4 lens. I used a Canon TC80-N3 remote to trigger the sequence.
I used all of my timelapse knowledge that you can find in my e-books here to set up, record and edit the sequence. If you are interested in learning how to timelapse or if you want to expand your photography and filmmaking skillset I highly recommend checking out my e-books.
You can buy them as a discounted bundle below or check them out separately here: www.matjoez.com/store
The camera settings for the bolide timelapse sequence were as follows:
8 second exposure – f2.5 – ISO 3200 – 9 second interval.
I shot a total of 912 images for the main sequence and had another sequence running on a second camera (Canon 1DXMkII with the Sigma 35mm f1.4 ART lens).
You can read up about the rest of the gear and the Utah astro photography road trip on the following blog post: https://www.matjoez.com/2019/06/26/ten-day-utah-astrophotography-road-trip/
Thanks for reading.
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