What Is A Meteor?
What Is A Meteor?
Fascinated by the universe and all things which 'fall out of the sky?'. Follow VideoJug's series of videos about the solar system to discover all there is to know, including what exactly is a meteor.
After the Earth and Planets were formed Billions of years ago, there were tiny pieces of rock left floating in space. Literally billions of these tiny residual pieces now orbit around the Sun throughout the solar system. We call them meteoroids. They vary in size from tiny, not much more than dust particles to huge, the size of a mountain.
As the Earth travels on its yearly journey around the Sun it often collides with these meteoroids at very high speeds, thousands of miles per hour. As they crash into our upper atmosphere they begin to cause friction with the gases and heat up causing a brief streak of light across the night sky. It is during this flash of burning that we call them meteors or shooting stars.
The smallest meteors last for a mere second or two as they disintegrate but some of the larger ones can last for longer and appear much brighter as they burn up, very bright ones are called fireballs. Some fireballs are bright enough to be seen in daylight.
Some of the larger ones even explode as they enter the atmosphere due to the build up of pressure inside its core.
On very rare occasions the Earth collides into a very large meteoroid that is so big that it doesn't completely burn up in the atmosphere. These can sometimes make it all the way to the ground and are then called meteorites. Meteorites have been found scattered all over the earth and are made of rock and Iron.
If they are still very large when they land they can cause damage on the Earth, there are impact craters spread all across the Earth, a very large one can be seen in the Arizona desert in America.
Because the Moon has no protective atmosphere, it has been victim to a large number of impacts from meteorites over the millions of years of its existence, the evidence of which can be seen in the thousands of craters on the Moon.
Meteors generally shoot across the night sky in random directions these are known as sporadic meteors, but at certain times of the year the Earth passes through a concentrated patch of debris and then a ‘meteor shower' can be seen. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of meteors shooting across the sky in a short space of time all coming from the same direction.
This debris is usually the remains of a left over trail from a comet that once crossed the Earth's orbit. It is usually made of very tiny pieces of rock and dust that sprayed out from the comet as it got near to the Sun.
In mid August every year the Earth passes through an area of space where the debris from a comet remains. As we pass through this debris it produces a spectacular meteor shower known as the Perseid meteor shower, so called because all of the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Perseus.
In Italy the Perseid meteor shower is celebrated as the tears of Saint Lawrence.
For more intriguing information about our solar system, check out our other films on the VideoJug website.