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Meteors are interesting phenomena that are gorgeous to look at but sometimes a bit scary. Have you ever stopped to actually think about meteors, what they’re made of, and how old they are?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn 14 interesting facts about meteors.
Meteors originate from comets. As comets move in their orbit around the sun, rocks and ice are ejected from the comet. This ejected rock and ice forms meteors.
Shockingly, some meteors are billions of years old, though their ages come in ranges. Some are even believed to be 4.56 billion years old.
You can actually estimate the age of a meteor based on its origin. Most meteorites that originated from asteroids are about 4.5 billion years old, whereas meteorites from Mars are normally between 200 million years old and 4.5 billion years old.
Meteor showers are breathtaking, but they are interesting too. Meteor showers are visible whenever the earth passes through the trail left behind by a comet or asteroid.
Scientists have come up with a systematic way to name meteor showers. They are named based on the constellation their radiant is located. For example, Perseids comes from Perseus.
Meteors can sometimes be seen with different colored tails. Red, yellow, and green tails are the most common. These colors occur whenever different molecules become ionized. Green tails appear from oxygen.
NASA predicts that as many as 30 meteor showers can be seen from the earth every year. Interestingly, some of these meteor showers have been around for hundreds of years.
In fact, some meteor showers have actually been observed for over 1,000 years. The Perseid meteor shower, for example, happens every year in August. This meteor shower was first seen 2,000 years ago when it was recorded in the Chinese annals.
Because of how common meteors are, the International Space Station has shields to protect against them. A coating of Kevlar is around the International Space Station and it is a foot thick.
Even though you might not see a lot of meteors, they are always there. Every night, NASA radars pick up about 12,000 meters every night. These 12,000 meteors are about the size of a single speck of dust.
Brightness is a feature of meteors that can be measured. Some meteors are so bright that they are actually brighter than the planet Venus. These are called fireballs.
Many people use the terms meteor and meteorite interchangeably, but they are not the same. A meteorite is a meteor that has hit the ground, whereas a meteor is observable, but it hasn’t hit the ground.
The vast majority of meteors are made of metal and are magnetic as a result. However, not all meteors are magnetic. Non-magnetic meteorites are incredibly rare.
Crazily enough, scientists can actually determine if a meteorite is new or if it is from an older find. Scientists will use microscopic chemical analysis to identify classified meteorites. That way, they can link two specimens of one meteorite, even if they are found at separate locations or at separate times.
Not all fun facts about meteors are scientific. For example, it’s illegal to buy and sell meteorites in South Africa.
It is estimated that about 17 meteorites hit the ground every day. However, some of these meteorites are incredibly small, and the vast majority of them are never collected by scientists.
The best time to see meteors is at night. We recommend using this meteor sightings calendar if you are interested in spotting meteors. This calendar can help you determine when you can see meteors from your location.
•You might also like:9 Interesting Facts About the Asteroid Belt You Never Knew
•You might also like:11 Interesting Facts About Comets You Never Knew
As you can see, meteors are very interesting. From the time they fall off the comet to the time they hit the ground, they are interesting parts of our universe. Be sure to be on the lookout for meteors this year so you can get a sight of these beautiful occurrences.
Featured Image Credit: AlexAntropov86, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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