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Ever seen a shooting star -- from above?

NASA Perseid Meteor Shower 8-13-11 over China

Everybody's been so busy on these hot August days monitoring the political atmosphere of Iowa, of all places, and South Carolina and New Hampshire for ascending or descending politicians.

Many of us forgot to look up.

This is the time of year every year when Earth, hustling along through space at about 8,000 miles an hour on its normal orbit of the sun, zips through the debris field from the Perseid Meteor.NASA US astronaut Ron Garan

Those little and sometimes not-so-little pieces were shed probably around the time of the first Crusades 1,000 years or more ago and have themselves been flying through the vacuum of space ever since.

Summoned by Earth's giant tractor beam (OK it's gravity), these chunks of primeval ice and rock hit the atmosphere at immense speeds and incinerate themselves in a streaking blaze of light.

Down below, they are called shooting stars.

Up above, say, 220 miles up above in the International Space Station, they are called, "Oh, that was a little close."

U.S. astronaut Ron Garan was flying over China a few nights ago watching out the window, which astronauts say is a spellbinding experience since at 17,000 miles an hour they witness a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes.

Garan has a good eye for pictures. We've published his stuff here before.

That night he caught this unique view of a shooting star from above. He put it out on his Twitter account: @Astro_Ron

Now, we're putting it out on our Twitter page too: @latimestot  Thanks, Ron.

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Historic view of space shuttle Atlantis returning to Earth -- as seen from space

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Ron Garan / NASA

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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