Meteors, meteorites and meteoroids explained


Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

(WYTV) — All about shooting stars: the meteors that flash across our night time sky.

First, definitions: It’s a meteoroid out in space. When it enters our atmosphere, it’s a meteor, that’s the flash we see as it burns up. If it doesn’t burn up completely and survives to hit the earth, it’s a meteorite.

But we’re concerned here with meteors. Here are some fast facts:

  • You must be less than 120 miles from a meteor to see it.
  • The meteors we see are at an average height of 55 miles.
  • The typical bright meteor is usually a particle maybe stone or iron or nickel about the size of a pea. The meteors we see during those annual meteor showers are no larger than a grain of sand.
  • We experience a meteor shower when Earth passes through cloud of particles that comets or asteroids have left behind.
  • These meteoroids are bombarding us all the time. The total mass entering our atmosphere is between 100 and 1,000 tons every day.
  • If you don’t count the meteor showers, the random meteors than can come streaking across any part of the sky any night might number six per hour — one every ten minutes.
  • An average meteoroid might enter our atmosphere at 130,000 miles per hour.

While there are no meteor showers this month, there are two coming up in October, three in November and two more in December.

The December shower runs through the 13 and 14 and will be visible all night long, appearing to flash out from the winter constellation Gemini, as many as 50 an hour.

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