Steve Cullen from Starscape Gallery was 11,000 feet up the dormant volcano Mauna Kea taking nightscapes on Saturday when he decided to take a last pre-dawn panorama before heading home. It was a great decision, because he captured this stunning image.

He explains what happened:

After a night on the Mauna Kea summit taking nightscapes and astrophotos, I started the long trek back down the mountain headed for home. For some reason, at 11,100 feet, I got the urge to stop the car right on the narrow mountain road to take a nightscape panorama of the volcano, Mauna Loa, and the clouds blanketing the saddle. After ten or fifteen minutes I noticed a bright orange object heading directly towards me from the west. At first I thought it was a satellite but at 2am it would be highly unlikely. Luckily, I was just finishing up a panorama and my camera was already facing towards the streaking lights. It picked up the flaming debris just as it began to disintegrate in Earthā€™s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. The source of the sky show is believed to have been a Chinese rocket body.

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According to Bad Astronomy the flaming debris was probably the upper stage of a Long March-3B rocket, launched on September 12th 2015 carrying an unknown satellite.

This is the panoramic photo featuring the reentry fireworks:

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Image Ā© Copyright Starscape Gallery / Steve Cullen

Take a closer look:

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Image Ā© Copyright Starscape Gallery / Steve Cullen


[Starscape Gallery via Bad Astronomy]

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