The best pictures are often the unplanned ones that happen simply by a stroke of luck.
Some of the hardest things to capture are celestial events. These occurrences often have a timing of their own and would barely last long enough for anyone to get the perfect shots. Even more annoying, your side of the planet might be just the worst angle.
Well, this lucky Indian photographer got to capture one of the trickiest celestial bodies that hurtle across to earth year-round. Over 25 million meteors streak past our skyline but they are often too tiny to be seen or tracked, most of which are impossible to see in daylight. A meteor (not to be confused with meteorite) is a small body of matter from space that drops into the earth’s atmosphere at an incredibly high speed, becomes incandescent due to high friction, and would ultimately zoom past the sky as a streak of bright light.
Essentially, that thing we all know as a shooting star is actually a meteor, and they often burn up into tiny particles of heated dust or rocks before they can reach the ground.
Make a Wish – if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse
Alluded to earlier, the famous photographer, Prasanjeet Yadav, is one of the few people who have ever captured real, high-resolution images of a meteor . The molecular biologist turned photographer had captured the incredible shot in the municipal town of Mettupalayam in Coimbatore, South India.
In October 2015, Yadav had been peacefully asleep on the mountains in his campsite when a bright green, dazzling meteor shot downward from outer space toward the earth. He wouldn’t have ever captured it on time, but his time-lapse rig had been at the ready. The Nikon D600 had been programmed to take 15-second exposures every 10 seconds, and it was a dumb stroke of luck that the meteor had passed during one of the exposures.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Yadav seized it, by accident. He wasn’t on a mountain top to photograph a meteor – he didn’t even know one would hurtle across the sky that night. Yadav had just won a National Geographic Young Explorers grant to document “sky islands” in the Western Ghats, a documentary about isolated mountains surrounded by utterly different lowland environments. He wanted to capture the terrain at different stages of the night, highlighted by lights coming from people’s homes to showcase urbanization against nature.
The meteor had only just been a souvenir, and he’d discovered it as he was combing through the thousands of shots his rig had captured overnight.
“This is definitely one of the most memorable shots I have ever taken and also the first image that National Geographic published back in 2016,” Yadav writes. “The green Meteor’s greenish color comes from a combination of the heating of oxygen around the meteor and the mix of minerals ignited as the rock enters Earth’s atmosphere.”
Yadav, presently an explorer for National Geographic, had been a molecular biologist with a specialty in big cats before photography became more of a purpose than a hobby. He explains that he felt the inclination to give others a visual into the scientific world since not many people would ever attempt to read an academic paper. He integrates science deeply into his photos and “chooses ignored subjects, landscapes, and species and find ways to develop engaging and accessible photos,” according to his website.
Images: Prasenjeet Yadav
- Michael Zhang. This Once-in-a-Lifetime Meteor Photo Was Captured by Accident. Peta Pixel. https://petapixel.com/2020/04/28/this-once-in-a-lifetime-meteor-photo-was-captured-by-accident/. Retrieved 30-04-2020
- Laura Mallonee. A Brilliant Green Meteor Lights Up India’s ‘Sky Islands‘. Wired. https://www.wired.com/2017/01/bright-green-meteor-lights-mountains-india/. Retrieved 30-04-2020
- Nick Collins. What is a meteor? The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/8190587/What-is-a-meteor.html. Retrieved 30-04-2020
- What is a meteorite? New Scientist. https://www.newscientist.com/term/what-is-a-meteorite/. Retrieved 30-04-2020\