Space & Innovation

Meteor Telescope, Take 3, Ready for Space Station Launch

NASA is hoping third time's a charm for the launch of its innovative meteor detector that's launching to the space station Tuesday night.

The first time NASA tried to fly a telescope to the space station for an innovative study of meteors it was destroyed during a launch accident of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket.

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Engineers used spare components to fashion a second meteor telescope and put it aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship that launched eight months later. That too ended in disaster when the company's Falcon 9 rocket failed.

On Tuesday, a third telescope is among the nearly 7,500 pounds of cargo packed aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule, which is slated to blast off aboard an Atlas 5 rocket between 11:05 and 11:35 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The telescope will be placed inside the space station's Window Observational Research Facility, or WORF, which uses a research-quality window in the U.S. Destiny laboratory.

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Scientists want to use the telescope to learn about the size, density and chemical composition of meteor dust entering Earth's atmosphere, the first space-based study of its kind.

They hope to use the telescope during the next big meteor shower, the Perseids, in mid-August.

During the next meteor shower, astronauts won’t be the only observers aboard the International Space Station.

Last night (Aug. 12/13), the Perseid meteor shower peaked, putting on a show for planet Earth. While passing through the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, our atmosphere was pummeled by the dusty debris, producing some spectacular meteors and even fireballs. Here are a few international views of this spectacular annual event.

MORE: What ARE the Perseids and Where Can You See Them?

In the run-up to last night's peak, in the skies over Joshua Tree National Park, near Los Angeles, Calif., photographer and Discovery News reader Sean Parker captured several meteors over a 60 minute timelapse, composed of 180 photos. Looking north, the startrails form a circle with the occasional meteor cutting through. You can check out more of Parker's timelapse and astro-photography

on his Facebook page


The skies over California weren't all as peaceful as Joshua Tree, however. In this long-exposure photograph from the town of Clearlake, which is located north of San Francisco, photographer Stuart Palley captured this dramatic view of a Perseid meteor flash across the sky over the Jerusalem Fire which has burned tens of thousands of acres of land in Lake and Napa Counties. California is currently undergoing a historic drought, creating the perfect conditions for wildfires across the state.

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Photographer Robert Raia

captures a Perseid falling in the direction of the Milky Way over New Jersey.

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John Entwistle (


) also spotted an impressive Perseid flash alongside the Milky Way over Jersey Shore, New Jersey.

While waiting for a Perseid meteor, this astronomer in Bulgaria uses a red light so not to interrupt his night-sensitive eyes.

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A lovely Perseid meteor emerges from the city glow over Wokington, Cumbria, UK, as photographed by Twitter user



Clear skies in Bulgaria aided not only the viewing of the Perseids, but also an object of man-made origin. This streak is neither a meteor or aircraft, that's the International Space Station making a bright pass over the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

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Twitter user


photographed a Perseid fall in the skies over Bristol, Conn.

Meanwhile, in Germany, a meteor streaks over the Pilsum Lighthouse in the town of Pilsum. The band of stars stretching overhead is the Milky Way.

MORE: Astronaut Photographs Perseid Meteor... From Space

Also in the clear skies over Pilsum, Germany a meteor flashes over windmills near the Pilsum Lighthouse.

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A bright fireball shines blue in the Pilsum, Germany, skies. Fireballs are larger meteors that can be seen to erupt as they speed through the atmosphere. Sometimes, depending on their size and speed, a fireball "bang" can be heard on the ground.

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In the Kaijiang County of Dazhou, southwest China's Sichuan Province, a Perseid meteor is seen erupting in starry skies.

Although most of southern Britain was hindered by cloudy skies, skywatchers in Patching, West Sussex, managed to catch a glimpse of the Perseids.

A faint, low Perseid as seen near Oakdale, Calif., is obscured by light pollution by a nearby town.

A meteor erupts over the Maculje archaeological site near Novi Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A Perseid over a windmill farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Republic of Macedonia.