What Is A Shooting Star?

You must have seen a shooting star during the night from the terrace of your building or while camping in a dark forest. You will be surprised to know that the shooting stars are not stars at all.

Shooting stars are small pieces of dust and rock called a meteoroid, which falls into the Earth’s atmosphere and leave a trail of light behind them. We also call them meteors, and scientists believe that they are broken fragments of comets, which still move about in space when the comet itself does so no longer.

We see them when they enter our atmosphere because they leave a trail of light behind them, caused by the friction of the air on their surfaces.

Most meteors are very small, but some can weigh several tons, and the vast majority of them disintegrate when they pass through the heat of the earth’s atmosphere. But some meteors, the larger ones, do land on earth, and when they do we call them meteorites.

There are two main types of a meteor – those made of minerals, which look like a rock and are called aerolites, and those made chiefly of Nickle and iron, which we call metallic meteors.

When the meteoroids are larger in size, they explode in the atmosphere and leave an extremely bright trail of light which can last for more than a minute. They are known as bolide and sometimes also referred to as a fireball.

Although it is very rare for a meteorite to fall on dry land, scientists think that many fall to earth every day, but that they land in the water which makes up two-thirds of the earth’s surface. This is why we hardly ever notice when they do hit the earth.

You might have heard in news or even attended some stargazing night events about the meteor shower event in which we can see a large number of meteors in the night sky. At this time of the year, Earth passes through the trail of debris left by the comet while orbiting around the Sun.

For example, during mid-August every year, as Earth drifts through the debris cloud left by the giant comet called Comet Swift–Tuttle, we can observe the brightest batch of shooting stars, called as Perseids meteor shower which is the best-known shower and most reliable in performance.

Here is the list of meteor showers that occurs in both northern and southern hemisphere.

NameDates (as of 2019)Rating
Antihelion Source10 Dec – 10 Sepmedium
Quadrantids28 Dec – 12 Janbright
Gamma Ursae Minorids26 Jan – 8 Febmedium
omicron Hydrids31 Jan – 20 Feb
Alpha Centaurids31 Jan – 20 Febbright
Gamma Normids25 Feb – 28 Marbright
Lyrids14 Apr – 30 Aprbright
Pi Puppids15 Apr – 28 Aprbright
Eta Aquariids19 Apr – 28 Maybright
Eta Lyrids3 May – 14 Maymedium
Daytime Arietids14 May – 24 Junmedium
Tau Herculids19 May – 19 Junmedium
June Bootids22 Jun – 2 Julbright
49 Andromedids6 Jul – 14 Augmedium
Piscis Austrinids15 Jul – 10 Augmedium
Southern Delta Aquariids12 Jul – 23 Augbright
Alpha Capricornids3 Jul – 15 Augbright
Perseids17 Jul – 24 Augbright
Kappa Cygnids3 Aug – 25 Augmedium
Aurigids28 Aug – 5 Sepbright
September Epsilon Perseids5 Sep – 21 Sepmedium
Daytime Sextantids9 Sep – 9 Octbright
October Camelopardalids5 Oct – 6 Octbright
Draconids6 Oct – 10 Octmedium
Southern Taurids10 Sep – 20 Novbright
Delta Aurigids10 Oct – 18 Octmedium
Epsilon Geminids14 Oct – 27 Octmedium
Orionids2 Oct – 7 Novbright
Leonis Minorids19 Oct – 27 Octmedium
Andromedids25 Sep – 6 Decmedium
Northern Taurids20 Oct – 10 Decbright
Leonids6 Nov – 30 Novbright
Alpha Monocerotids15 Nov – 25 Novbright
November Orionids13 Nov – 6 Decmedium
Phoenicids22 Nov – 9 Decmedium
Puppid-Velids1 Dec – 15 Decmedium
Monocerotids5 Dec – 20 Decmedium
Sigma Hydrids3 Dec – 15 Decmedium
Geminids4 Dec – 17 Decmedium
Comae Berenicids12 Dec – 23 Decmedium
Ursids17 Dec – 26 Decmedium
Source: Wikipedia

So save the dates and don’t forget to experience the meteor shower.

Happy meteor shower gazing! 🙂

Professor Atom

View posts by Professor Atom
Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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