Meteor Showers & Shooting Stars: Things You Need to Know

You’d often see meteor showers when particles or dust from comets or asteroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds. Upon hitting the atmosphere, meteors would often rub against air particles and create friction. Along the process, it would heat the meteors and vaporize most of them, thus creating what we call shooting stars.

We know that there are stray bits of particles and stuff hitting our Earth from all directions. However, there seems to be a degree of certainty about regularly timed “meteor showers” and events when astronomers make better predictions about the number of meteors that will hit the Earth. Along with the number, astronomers can also predict which direction they’ll be coming from.

There’s certainly a lot to know about meteor showers, and they’re undeniably interesting. With this fact, we’ve managed to compile some of the facts that we know about meteor showers or shooting stars.

Varies in Size & Speed

Most of the meteors that will enter the atmosphere of our Earth should become visible at around 96.5 kilometers or 60 miles up. Some of the large meteors would often splatter, creating a bright flash that we call a fireball. In turn, they are visible during the day and audible for up to 48 kilometers or 30 miles. Furthermore, the average speed of meteors comes in at around 48,280 kph, and they can reach immense temperatures of up to 1,648 degrees Celsius.

Almost all of the meteors that enter the atmosphere of the Earth are very small in size. Some can even be as tiny as a grain of sand. These small meteors would often disintegrate in the air. However, there are still large meteors that reach the surface of the Earth. In turn, these large ones are what we call meteorites, and they’re pretty rare.

Impact with the Earth

When meteors and meteorites hit the surface of the Earth, their speed is around half of what it had upon entry. Meteorites are completely capable of blasting out craters up to 12 to 20 times their size. In turn, these meteorites are responsible for the craters around Earth, and it’s the same as what we see on the moon or any other rocky planet.

Large meteors also tend to explode above the surface. It causes widespread damage from its detonation and blast, which would then cause a fire. Interestingly, it happened back in 1908 in Siberia, and we refer to it as the Tunguska event. In June 1908, people witnessed a ball of fire streak through the sky, which suggests that the meteorite entered the Earth at an oblique angle. Then, it exploded, sending out hot winds and loud noises. It also shook the ground and broke windows in the villages around the area.

Although impacts can cause destruction and damage, we still credit meteorites and meteor showers as spectacular events. Back in 1908, small particles of the meteorite were blown into the Earth’s atmosphere. In turn, people were able to witness a lit-up night sky for several days.

Historical Meteorites

Our ancestors and their time had several beliefs concerning superstition, gods, and religion. For our ancestors, a meteorite had something to do with their beliefs. Some would believe that a meteor or meteorites were gifts from angels. Others also thought that the gods were showcasing their power and anger.

However, humanity seems to move past that belief, and we credit everything to science and the remarkable scientists who paved the way for us to understand more about meteors. Of course, there have been several notable meteorites that hit the Earth before. One particular one happened in 1807 when a fireball exploded all over Connecticut. At the time, they were able to discover several asteroids, but a new theory now suggests that they were broken bits off other asteroids.

The United States also has its fair share of meteorite craters, but none is as famous as the Meteor Crater in Arizona. It’s undeniably huge, and the rim rises up to 150 feet from its surrounding plain. The hole goes as deep as 600 feet, and it stretches out for almost a mile. Interestingly, it’s the first crater caused by a meteorite impact, and it occurred around 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Meteorites to Watch Out

There are many periodic showers that amateur observers and astronomers alike wait for annually. Interestingly, these meteor showers adopt their names from the different constellations from where the showers appear to come from. One good example is the Orionids, and they seem to originate from the Orion constellation. The Perseids, on the other hand, seem to come from the Perseus constellation.

Both meteor showers are periodic meteor showers to watch out for. The Orionid comes from Halley’s comet, which makes a complete orbit around the sun every 75 to 76 years. This Orionid shower occurs every October, and it can last for an entire week. The Perseids is also a spectacular meteor shower. Though it’s not as active as the Leonids, it’s the most-watched meteor shower of the year, and it peaks around the 12th of August with more than 60 meteors per minute.

Other meteor showers include the Leonids, which is a must-see meteor shower, and it takes credit as the brightest and most impressive one. It can produce a meteor shower that features more than thousands of meteors per minute at its peak. We also have the Quadrantids, which originate from the debris of an asteroid named 2003 EH1. Some meteor showers to watch out for are the Eta Aquarids, Lyrids, Geminids, and many more.