Amazing Shooting Stars

So what are these unusual lights we call shooting stars?

Like many amateur astronomers you can most likely remember one particular occasion in your early childhood years that started you off in this fascinating pastime.

It may have been the very first time you looked through a telescope, or maybe when you first saw a rain of fire in the sky that we now know is a meteoroid shower.

A meteoroid is really a smallish piece of space rubble, typically dust or tiny rocks which come from either a comet or the break up of an asteroid in space which sooner or later plummets towards the Earth.

We say “towards the Earth” simply because the lights you see are the friction of the atmosphere burning up those small space tidbits and creating a spectacular show as they do so. An exceptionally impressive moment in time is when a meteoroid breaks up or explodes on entry.

There are many intriguing details concerning the life of a meteoroid which make the observation of shooting stars a whole lot more fun. A meteoroid only needs to weigh as little as a millionth of a gram in order to be seen.

Yet what makes them so eye-catching is the remarkable speeds they achieve as they enter into the atmosphere. Prior to burning up, a meteoroid will attain somewhere between 11 and 74 kilometers per second, which happens to be 100 times faster than a bullet.

Some people have a tendency to think that viewing a shooting star as some sort of freak occurrence and often connect it with superstition. However , there are certainly several thousands of them annually so it actually isn’t unusual to see one. In actual fact, researchers inform us that more than 200,000 tons of space matter makes its way into the atmosphere every year and burns up on entry.

A large source of comets are meteoroids on account of the their long tails. A massive amount, ice, dust along with other space debris gets swept up in a comet’s tail as it moves in the direction of the sun.

Subsequently as the comet moves away from the sun in its orbit, a great deal of matter is thrown off into space to disperse. As the Earth moves in orbit around the Sun, it frequently traverses through clouds of discarded matter which in turn develops into a “meteor shower” which are so popular for observing.

Shooting Stars

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Most of these showers of shooting stars are fairly simple for astronomers to predict, so you have time to get into a good location to see a spectacular show at exactly the right time of night. In most cases 'Astronomy Magazine' will provide a general time and place to look when meteoroids begin to fall.

Now, bear in mind it is a phenomenon of nature, and as a result it may not observe the schedule precisely. Furthermore be aware that there's a notation system for where the meteoroid shower will occur depending on which constellation is its backdrop.

The portion of the sky to focus on for the show is known as the “radiant” due to the fact that is where area where meteoroids start to glow or radiate.

The name of the radiant is taken from the constellation it is closest to. So in the event the meteor shower is going to appear in the constellation of Leo, then it's radiant will be called Leonid.

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