Night Sky: Shooting Stars & Meteor Showers
We are going to have a full Night Sky section; but, couldn't wait to get this Shooting Stars / Meteor Showers (including Grazers, Fireballs, Smoke Trails & Sonic Booms) information out. Information on the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis will be added next.
Shooting Stars / Meteor Showers
(Including Grazers, Fireballs, Smoke Trails & Sonic Booms)
Most meteor showers are caused by comet debris. As comets enter the inner solar system, they are warmed by the sun and peppered by the solar wind, which produces the familiar tails that stretch across the night sky when a bright comet is close to Earth.
Comet tails are made of tiny pieces of ice, dust, and rock which are spewed into interplanetary space as they bubble off the comet’s nucleus. When Earth encounters these particles on its journey around the Sun, they strike the atmosphere speeds exceeding 100,000 mph. (The average speed of Perseid meteoroids is 130,000 mph!)
Most are observed as a bright streak across the sky that can last for several seconds, but occasionally a large fragment will explode in a multicolored fireball. Most of the streaks (popularly called ‘shooting stars‘) are caused by meteoroids about the size of a grain of sand, but much less dense. Although they travel at high speeds, these tiny meteoroids pose no threat to people or objects on the ground.
Meteors can be seen on any night, but Earth enters clouds of particles several times each year and the result is a meteor shower.
General Viewing Recommendations: Experienced observers suggest the following viewing strategy: Bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick blanket over a flat spot of ground (probably don’t want to do this in January in Canada). Lie down and look up.. You don’t need to stare directly at the radiant — the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Binoculars and telescopes are not essential. The naked eye is usually best for seeing meteors which often streak more than 45 degrees across the sky. The field of view of most binoculars and telescopes is simply too narrow for good meteor observations.