On the 12th August 2015, hundreds of shooting stars lit up the night sky as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaked. The shower is active each year from the 17th of July to the 24th of August but this year coincided with a new moon (for the first time since 2007) creating the ideal dark sky conditions. The shooting stars were also joined by the International Space Station (ISS) at around 10:30pm as it moved from the West below the bright star Arcturus and then headed towards the south, fading out as it passed into the Earth’s shadow. To learn more about the Perseid meteor shower take a look at this link:
What is a Shooting Star?
A shooting star is a small piece of rock or dust (sometimes only the size of a grain of sand) that hits Earth’s atmosphere from space. It moves so fast that it heats up and glows as it moves through the atmosphere. Shooting stars are what astronomers call meteors. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere before they reach the ground. However, once in a while a meteor is large enough that some of it survives and reaches Earth’s surface. Then it is called a meteorite:
The History of Shooting Stars
In ancient times shooting stars caused a lot of uncertainty, they were often thought of as a sign of the Gods. Some people believed that meteorites were gifts from the angels whilst others believed it was a sign that the Gods were angry:
Interesting facts about Meteors
- The fastest meteoroids travel through the solar system at a speed of around 42 kilometres per second (26 miles per second).
- The Earth’s atmosphere experiences millions of meteors every day.
- Meteors are easier to see during the lower light conditions of night.
- There was a meteor shower in 1966 called the Leonid Shower which lit up the entire sky. It was said that there was 40 shooting stars every second.
Blog by Kathleen Shuster
Kathleen Shuster is the Social Media Manager for Education Quizzes.