Understanding the mystery behind shooting stars
20 May 2019
Have you ever witnessed a beautiful streak of light on the sky and wondered what it is? That streak of light is known as a shooting star. A shooting star looks like a fleeting flash of white light. But, what exactly is a shooting star and how did it come into being?
What is a shooting star?
Stars revolve around their own well-defined orbits and are well-positioned in space. On the contrary, a shooting star is a small, burning speck of debris entering the atmosphere of the earth.
As a shooting star begins to march towards the earth, it appears red. As it gets closer to the earth it turns white and finally appears blue as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. Shooting stars exit for only a brief period of time on the sky.
Ancient cultures and civilizations have their own legends to describe the reason for formation of shooting stars. In ancient India, people believe that if they make a wish upon seeing the shooting star, it would be granted. The Greeks believed that the occurrence of shooting stars was either a good or bad omen. Similarly, the occurrence of shooting star was linked to the martyrdom of St. Lawrence in Christian tradition.
How is a shooting star formed?
Shooting stars are basically disintegrated meteors and asteroids. Meteors are as small as tiny particle of sand. Some are large and are known as meteorites. Meteors can vary in size from tiny specks of dust to larger rocks up to 10 metres in diametre.
Meteor shower takes place when dust particles from comets enter the atmosphere of the Earth. These dust particles travel at a very high speed between 11 km/sec to 72 km/sec.
As soon as these dust particles enter the earth’s atmosphere, friction is created between the meteors. Consequently, the meteors are heated up. This heat vaporizes the meteors which lead to the formation of shooting stars. The meteoroid burns up at over 1500 degree Celsius.
What happens when a meteor strike the Earth’s surface?
Large-sized meteors have the potential to explode above the surface. This may cause widespread damage and can also lead to ensuing fire.
In 1908, people of Siberia witnessed a flashing ball of fire spread across the sky. Astronomers suggested that a burning meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Siberia. The meteor exploded with great noise, breaking away the windows of nearby houses. This event was named the Tunguska event.
The night sky was lit for several days following the incident. Years later, scientists found out that a meteor had exploded above the earth’s surface.
When should you expect to see a shooting star?
You can see large number of meteor showers in the sky at one time. However, no one can predict the timing of its occurrence. It’s rare and sudden. You got to keep the eyes on the dark, beautiful night sky to witness nature’s exciting phenomenon.
Now that you the nuts and bolts of a shooting star, we hope you will be sharing it with your peers.