Meteoroids and Shooting Stars
Based in Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska has an appreciation for the outdoors and enjoys exploring the natural landscape around her. Valerie Varnuska also maintains a strong interest in stargazing and enjoys learning about the principles of astronomy that define natural phenomena across the universe.
Seeing a shooting star is a memorable experience for stargazers of all ages. Despite the name, however, this phenomenon does not actually involve any stars. The streaks of light are due to meteoroids, which are composed of tiny rock and dust particles that burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The trail of light that forms is called a meteor, while remaining objects that survive entry into the atmosphere and land on terra firma are known as meteorites.
Meteor showers are common at specific times of the year when the Earth, during its orbit of the Sun, passes through a debris trail that has been left behind by an orbiting comet. These showers take their names from the constellation that inhabits the area of the night sky where the shooting stars appear. For example, the Leonid Meteor Shower originates in the part of the sky inhabited by Leo.
A resident of Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska likes to enjoy the outdoor environment while taking part in activities such as hiking, walking, and stargazing. In addition to exploring nature trails near Westbury, NY, Valerie Varnuska holds a keen interest in astronomy and learning about new astrological discoveries. Recently, NASA discovered 95 new planets beyond our solar system.
The newly discovered exoplanets (planets existing outside our solar system) were observed using NASA’s Kepler telescope and vary from Earth- to Jupiter-sized. The telescope located the planets while orbiting the earth, providing views of different parts of the sky along with recordings of fluctuations in light levels caused by exoplanets crossing in front of the stars they orbit.
Researchers are analyzing data provided by the telescope to differentiate between fluctuations caused by the movement of exoplanets and those caused by other sources.
Exoplanet explorers hope to discover other Earth-sized planets that may have the capacity to host life. Future space missions intended to help find such planets include the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.