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  Annual Light Show: Meteor Showers:  
 

 

Also known as “shooting stars,” meteors are brilliant flashes of light in the night sky that appear to be falling. As they rip through the atmosphere, the heat generated disintegrates the meteors before they can hit Earth. If a meteor does manage to hit solid ground, it becomes a meteorite.

Forecast: Showers Ahead
What exactly is a meteor? It’s cosmic debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere. As a dust particle, it is known as a meteoroid. Once it ignites, the particle becomes a meteor. And when there are several falling at once, it becomes a meteor shower.

Meteoroids originate from comets. When a comet nears the Sun, it leaves behind a debris field that remains in orbit. As Earth makes its annual trek around the Sun, it passes through this debris field, whereby the field’s dust particles enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Because Earth’s orbit is the same each year, annual events like the Perseid Meteor Shower (August 12) and Leonid Meteor Shower (November 17) can be accurately predicted.

 

 
  Showers and Their Comets:
  Each year, stargazers look to the sky in the early and late fall to catch a glimpse of a spectacular light show. If conditions are clear, these meteor showers put on a display that outdoes any fireworks show.

As said, meteor showers are the result of comets and their own orbiting paths. The Perseid Meteor Shower’s comet for instance is the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits near Uranus; yet its stream stretches all the way out to Earth. This meteor shower typically produces one meteor every minute.

The “King of Meteor Showers” however is the Leonid Meteor Shower, which is most visible around mid-November. Its comet is the Comet Tempel-Tuttle and observance of the shower dates back to 1833. In fact, seeing the Leonids on the nights of November 12-13, 1833, is what gave birth to meteor astronomy!