What does a shooting star look like?
A shooting star is not actually a star, nor does it shoot. A shooting star is officially called a meteor, a chunk of extraterrestrial rock pulled into the Earth’s atmosphere by gravity. Most meteors are closer to dust or sand in size, not the large boulders frequently seen in science fiction movies. As these tiny fragments of rock fall through the Earth’s outer layers of air, they experience a build-up of frictional heat. The individual particles glow brightly as they continue to fall and burn up. Observers on the ground may catch a fleeting glimpse of the shooting star as it streaks across the night sky. It is easy to see how the shooting star earned its nickname. We’re accustomed to seeing fixed points of light in the night sky, commonly known as stars and planets. What we’re not so accustomed to is observing one of these points of light falling out of place or suddenly burning out. When we see a meteor heat up and streak across the sky, it often looks like a real star dropping out o
It usually lasts a second or two (rare ones can go as long as ten seconds). They are about the brilliance of a normal star. They streak rapidly. The faster ones are very white, while slow one can be yellow or even reddish (faster = hotter = whiter). The fast one can sometimes leave a trail (which lasts for a few seconds — although the record observed is almost an hour). It is very rare that it will still be there after you finish shouting “look over there, a shooting star!” Unless the person is already looking up, in the general direction. Sometimes (very rarely) they break apart at the end of the streak and you then see (for a brief fraction of a second) two or three streaks sticking out from the end of the main streak. They are small pebbles (the size of your thumb, at most) that enter the Earth’s atmosphere at very high speed. The word “meteor” is from a Greek term meaning “high in the air”. It is from the same root that we get “meteorology”. If you are in a dark place (no light po