By Collin O’Mara-Green
Every year, as the Earth orbits around the Sun, our planet passes through the ancient paths of icy comets and rocky asteroids. Those objects have shed gasses and bits of rock which linger in space.When Earth runs into this trail of space debris, the atmosphere acts as a shield. If the collision between rock and air is fast enough, you get what we call a “shooting star” or meteor. It’s not a star at all; often it’s a rock the size of a grain of sand! The friction caused by the air causes it to glow and vaporize into a streak of light.
Although random space rocks can cause meteors anytime, these predictable intersections with old objects creates “meteor showers” with many shooting stars per hour. Dates are roughly the same each year, but the number of meteors can vary widely from year to year.
The next shower is tonight! The Eta Aquarids at about 50 faint meteors possible per hour. To observe, just find a clear sky and blankly look up. Your eyes will pick up on meteors all on their own.
Keep lookin’ up!