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Photographer Accidentally Captures a Rare Fireball Explosion in His Night Sky Time-Lapse

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Astronomers can wait decades to see or capture what Ben Lewis photographed by accident while shooting a time-lapse Ashton-Wildwood County Park, Iowa very early this morning. Called a ‘bolide fireball,’ what you see in the short time-lapse above is an exceptionally bright meteorite that explodes in a bright flash at its end, leaving behind this strange bright puff of red smoke.

To the untrained eye you would think a ‘night fury’ from How to Train Your Dragon just passed by, but this is in fact a natural phenomenon that, in real time, lasted an amazing 12 minutes!

Shot with a Canon 6D and 35mm lens at f/1.4 10 sec, and ISO 1600 with a 10 second delay between frames, Lewis was actually sleeping when this happened. When he came back to review the footage he initially thought it was an airplane, but upon closer inspection he realized it was much stranger than that.

According to the American Meteor Society — who have put this video on their front page — meteors can develop two types of tails: glowing trains, or smoke trails.

“Most trains last only a few seconds, but on rare occasions a train may last up to several minutes,” they write. “A train of this duration can often be seen to change shape over time as it is blown by upper atmospheric winds.”

To see individual frames and a GIF of the fireball in action, head over to the original Reddit post where Lewis originally posted his discovery.

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