Witnessing a meteor shower on a clear, dark night is an unforgettable experience that’ll leave you gazing in awe. Often referred to as ‘shooting stars’, meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter into the Earth’s atmosphere at very high rates of speed. The friction caused by this entrance heat the meteors to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, vaporizing most of the meteor. Larger meteors can splatter, causing a brighter flash referred to as a ‘fireball’ and often can be heard up to 30 miles away!
Check out this video of a sizable meteor in Raleigh, NC on 7/17/2014:
So what is a meteor? They all start out as a chunk of space rock, called a meteoroid. If it enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns up, it’s called a meteor. If a piece lands on Earth, it’s referred to as a meteorite. On average, meteors speed through our atmosphere at about 30,000 mph!
Meteors are often seen flying through the sky alone, but there are certain times in a year when dozens or even hundreds of meteors light up the sky per hour. These meteor showers occur when earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet, while others are caused by debris from asteroids. Meteor showers are named after the constellations from where the shower appears to come from.
Here is a list of meteor showers to look out for:
Leonids: Called the King of Meteor Showers, the Leonids are the brightest and most impressive. It can produce a meteor storm that showers the earth with thousands of meteors per minute at its peak. This display only happens approximately every 33 years, with the last one occurring in 2002. The next “show” is expected in 2028.
Perseids: This meteor shower is associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The earth passes through the comet’s orbit during the month of August each year. While not as active as the Leonids, it is the most widely watched meteor shower of the year, peaking on August 12 with more than 60 meteors per minute.
Orionids: The Orionid meteor shower originates from Halley’s comet, which orbits the sun every 75 to 76 years. The Orionids shower happens every October (around the 21st) and can last about a week, with roughly 50-70 shooting stars per hour at its peak.
Quadrantids: The Quadrantid meteor shower comes from the debris of the asteroid ‘2003 EH1’ and is most likely a part of a comet that broke apart centuries ago. It occurs January 3 and 4 and gives earth observers a brief show that lasts a few hours.
Geminids: The Geminid meteor shower also comes from dust particles of an asteroid called ‘3200 Phaeton’. The Geminids spray up to 40 meteors per hour out of the Gemini constellation at its peak and occur around December 12-14.
Stay Safe. Know Before™.
The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team