Spacecraft Re-enters Atmosphere, Explodes into Cosmic Fireworks

Hayabusa, a Japanese spacecraft containing material from a moving asteroid, re-entered the atmosphere this week, putting on an amazing light show after ejecting its cargo to parachute safely into the Australian Outback. Click through for video of the explosion.

The craft was supposed to blow up like that, apparently. The research team has since recovered the asteroid-containing capsule and is taking it back to Japan. At least, they hope it contains asteroids: Hayabusa apparently malfunctioned during its sojourn, and may not have gathered much at all. But we got a pretty sweet video out of it, right?

The clip was recorded by a group of NASA and Japanese astronomers. The picture is an 80-second exposure taken in Australia. [AFP; NASA]