Did you know that today is Meteor Watch Day? Here are five things you should know about meteors before you and your family go on watch tonight.
1. Did you know that “shooting stars” are not stars at all, but heated and glowing meteoroids falling through the Earth’s atmosphere?
2. Meteoroids are significantly smaller than asteroids, and range in size from small grains to 1 meter-wide objects.
3. Legend has it that if you wished upon a shooting star the wish would come true. It is believed to have originated in Greece, when a Greek astronomer Ptolemy, around AD 127-151, wrote that the Gods occasionally, out of curiosity, peer down at the Earth from between the spheres. When this happened stars sometimes slip through the gap, becoming visible as shooting stars. It was thought that because the Gods were already looking at us, they would be more receptive to any wishes we made!
4. Sometimes the best way to see a meteor shower is not to use a telescope or binoculars, but rather to just look up with your eyes.
5. Meteor showers are best viewed after midnight. This is because after midnight your particular part of the Earth is facing in the direction of the Earth’s motion about the Sun, and so the meteoroids enter the atmosphere at a steeper angle with a higher speed, and are more numerous than earlier in the night.