Hunting meteors in a Rolls-Royce Phantom

By topgear, 21 December 2016

The sky is on fire.

Well, maybe not 'on fire' as such. More sort of smouldering. A bit more conscious than usual. Dammit, so I've fallen for a slinky little chunk of hyperbole: it would be more accurate to describe the dying embers I'm seeing flash briefly across the sky every half-minute or so as the dusty orbital leavings of 25km-wide comet Swift-Tuttle flash-frying themselves against the Earth's atmosphere.

But it's not so poetic. Whatever, the star-speckled blanket of midnight is currently being slashed by little trails of superheated plasma smearing themselves across the firmament.

It might not have the same effortless intensity as a man-made fireworks display, but knowing that we're watching tiny pieces of space rock make the change from meteoroids (in space) to meteors (when they hit the atmosphere) to - occasionally - meteorites (if they actually make landfall) at 59km per second, it all just seems a little bit' grander.

Photography: John Wycherley

This feature was originally published in issue 289 of Top Gear magazine

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