When you go outside and peer up at the clear night sky, you may see a spark of light suddenly flash out of nowhere. Many people would call this phenomenon a shooting star. But is this a star falling from the sky? Scientifically speaking, a meteor is a small rocky or metallic body found in space. It helps to create light as it comes in direct contact with the Earth’s atmosphere, which causes the outer layer of the meteor to burn. Just like smaller space rocks, larger ones can pass all the way through the Earth’s atmosphere to create a sonic boom, leading to a trail of rocky debris.
Now, you must be wondering how big these rocks are and where they originated from. Well, it varies. These rocks are mainly the remains of space debris or comets, and some may even be asteroids. Let’s jump straight into the details for a bright and better understanding of meteors.
What is a Meteor?
Primarily known as space rocks or meteoroids, meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere. When the space rock starts to fall from its place, the drag or resistance of air on that said rock will cause friction, making it catch fire. When this occurs, you will see a shooting star. That illuminated line is not the primary rock but is hot air that is created as the rock moves through the atmosphere. When Earth is faced with multiple meteors at the same time, that is referred to as a meteor shower. Why do meteor showers occur? It is because comets also orbit around the Sun just like the Earth does. Unlike that circular orbit of the planet, the comet’s orbit is mainly lopsided.
When any comet gets within close contact with the Sun, its ice-cold surface starts to boil, releasing a large number of rocks and dust. This debris from the comet then gets sprinkled out toward the path of the comet and mainly lands in the interior portion of the solar system where the Earth resides. There are multiple times in a year when the Earth completes its movement around the sun, and its orbit might cross that of the comet. During this occurrence, the Earth gets hit by comet debris, which results in shooting stars.