Meteor showers details we know so far!

Meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter Earth’s atmosphere at very high speed. Meteors rub against air particles when they hit the atmosphere and friction is created which heats the meteors. Most meteors are vaporized by heat and create what are called shooting stars.

Meteor is a small metallic or rocky body in outer space. Meteor range in size from small grains to one-meter-wide objects. Scientists classify objects smaller than this as micrometeoroids or space dust. Asteroids or comets are responsible for most fragments and some are collection impact debris ejected from bodies such Mars or Moon.

From all directions, there are stray bits of stuff hitting Earth. There are also regularly timed “meteor showers” when astronomers can make better predictions about how many meteors will hit the Earth and from what direction. The meteor shower occurs when the Earth moves fast and uncontrolled into the trail of particles left behind by a comet or asteroid. Meteor showers can be more or less intense depending on where the trail of particles falls in a particular year.

Sometimes new meteor showers are found by astronomers. For example, in Camelopardalids in 2014 of around 60 miles, utmost meteors are visible. Some large meteors splatter and cause a brighter flash called a fireball. This flash can be seen during the day and heard up to 30 miles away. On average, meteors can reach about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and speed through the atmosphere at about 30,000 mph.

Most meteors are small, and some of them are as tiny as a grain of sand, so they disintegrate in the air. Meteorites are the large ones that reach the Earth’s surface but they are very rare. Meteor outbursts and meteor storms are intense or unusual meteor showers and can produce at least 1,000 meteors an hour.

The object breaking apart depends upon speed and angle of entry, and its composition. A faster meteor suffers more significant stress at an oblique angle. Meteors made of iron can bear the pressure better than those made of stone. As the atmosphere becomes denser around 5 to 7 miles iron meteors even will break up.  Above the surface, the large meteors explode and cause widespread damage from the blast and ensuing fire. Over 900 suspected meteor showers are listed by the Meteor Data Centre and out of which 100 are well established.

NASA and other organizations keep track of all the asteroids seen from Earth. They also try to discover as many as possible.  They try to found out the larger ones that can cause a threat to Earth. Asteroid orbits are plotted and tracked to see if they will intersect with Earth in the future.

History of Meteor –

Objects in the night sky in ancient times created many superstitions and were associated with gods and religion. But misunderstandings about meteors lasted longer. Meteor was thought to be cast down as gifts from angels while other thoughts God was displaying their anger. Many believed they fell from thunderstorms as late 17th century. Many scientists were not convinced that stones could fall from the clouds. They even didn’t think of the people who saw stones falling.

Over Connecticut in 1807, a fireball exploded and many meteorites fell down. The 1st handful of asteriods have been discovered by then. A new theory also emerged that suggested meteorites were broken bits off asteroids or other planets. In the US, the largest meteorite recovered in a wheat field in southern Nebraska in 1948. Witnesses saw a giant fireball in the afternoon that some said were brighter than the sun. The meteorite was found buried 10 feet deep in the ground and weighed 2,360 lbs.

Meteors are often seen falling from the sky alone. But there are certain times in a year when many of them per hour will light up the sky. It can be in the count of dozens or hundred and seems to come from one part of the sky. Meteors radiate in all directions and fall towards Earth one of another. Many periodic meteor showers are there that astronomers and amateur observers wait for every year. They are named after the constellations from where the shower appears to be coming from.

Types of Meteor –

Leonid meteor shower is the brightest and the most impressive one. Scientists say that it can produce a meteor storm that showers the sky with thousands of meteors per minute at its peak. Every November, they occur, but at intervals of about 33 years, the shower’s most beautiful display happens. The last one lit the sky in 2002, and until 2028 it will not happen again.

Perseids are another shower associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle, which takes 133 years to orbit the sun. During August every year, the Earth passes through the comet’s orbit. It is not as active as Leonids, but it is the most widely watched meteor shower of the year. In this with more than 60 meters per minute can be seen. Orionids produce meteors from Halley’s Comet, which orbits the sun every 75 to 76 years. It happens every October and lasts for a week, and shows 50 to 70 shooting stars per hour at its peak.

Quadrantids come from the debris of an asteroid called 2003 EH1. In early January, the debris enters Earth’s atmosphere. Geminids came from dust particles of an asteroid named 3200 Phaeton. It happens in December and sprays up to 40 meteors per hour. The Southern Taurids are a long-lasting shower that several peaks during its activity period. This shower remains active for two months but rarely produces more than five shower members per hour. Northern Taurids is active late in the year and similar to Southern Taurids. The Ursids are often neglected because it peaks just before Christmas and 5-10 Ursids per hour can be seen in the late morning hours. 

List of upcoming meteor showers –

  • Orionids – September 26th, 2021 to November 22nd, 2021. This will peak on the Oct 20-21, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 100% full.
  • Southern Taurids – September 28th, 2021 to December 2nd, 2021. This will peak on the Nov 4-5, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 0% full.
  • Northern Taurids – October 13th, 2021 to December 2nd, 2021. This will peak on the Nov 11-12, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 55% full.
  • Leonids – November 3rd, 2021 to December 2nd, 2021. This will peak on the Nov 17-18, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 98% full.
  • Geminids – November 19th, 2021 to December 24th, 2021. This will peak on Dec 13-14, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 78% full.
  • Ursids – December 13th, 2021 to December 24th, 2021. This will peak on Dec 21-22, 2021 night. On this night, the moon will be 93% full.
  • Quadrantids – December 26th, 2021 to January 16th, 2022. This will peak the Jan 2-3, 2022 night. On this night, the moon will be 0% full.


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