Updated: Dec 14, 2021
— New York, NY
Many people know how shooting stars look, rocks moving through space that create light through friction. But what does it look like when there are many shooting stars all at once?When many of these rocks enter the upper atmosphere, they create meteor showers that impress people around the world.
In order to create these beautiful displays, a variety of rocks ranging from debris in space to fragments of asteroids are pulled into Earth’s atmosphere, although most of the rocks are incredibly small and barely enter the atmosphere. The source of the meteor shower depends on Earth’s location and the nearby fields of debris. As rocks get pulled into Earth's gravity, they encounter friction, and heat is released. The heat results in a range of colors radiating from the flaming rock.
Each meteor shower has a point in the sky from which all of the meteors seem to originate, which is called the radiant. The direction at which the Earth intercepts the debris is the direction of the radiant. So, looking directly at the radiant only shows a flash of light as compared to the meteor tails when they are seen from an angle.
The meteors differ in the colors they exhibit and their distance traveled. Depending on the month, the speed at which the rocks interact with Earth’s atmosphere and their formation impacts the color. Meteors rarely reach Earth, since they must start out big enough to make it all the way through Earth’s atmosphere without burning up. The lower the meteors get, the more air resistance there is. Air resistance creates friction, which generates heat and leads to a burning state which is referred to as a “fireball”.
Not only are meteor showers interesting to watch, but their formation process is equally as interesting! If you are interested, check out a meteor shower calendar here: https://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-shower-calendar/.
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