Understanding Meteoroids and Shooting Stars

 

Meteoroids and Shooting Stars pic

Meteoroids and Shooting Stars
Image: space.com

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.

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