If you raise your head to the night skies these days, and if weather allows it, most likely you will spot a shooting star or two, and on the right dates – even dozens of them.
Although we have a romantic picture in our mind of making a wish upon a falling, or shooting, star – the brilliant passing light we see in the skies is not quite what most of us think it is.
So – what is a shooting star? Why do we see more of them these days? And how to spot many of them in the skies?
Shooting stars are not at all stars – in the meaning of distant suns. And they do not “fall” out of the skies or wither and die…
What we call a “shooting star” is actually a meteor – a small piece of celestial debris, passing by very close to earth, being lit up by the heat of the collision with earth’s atmosphere – leaving a brilliant incandescent trail.
From time to time we can spot a shooting star (a meteor) in the skies, but at certain times of the year we have a “meteor shower” – meaning that we have a very large concentration of meteors hitting earth’s atmosphere and many, many shooting stars.
Meteor showers are not a random event. They happen on very specific, and known dates, year after year. They occur when Earth, in its journey around the Sun, enters a field of meteoroids (the celestial debris before it hits earth’s atmosphere).
July and August are two months in which Earth passes through two of these fields and therefore there is a large amount of “shooting stars” during this time, and especially between July 12th and August 22nd.
In the northern hemisphere – where it’s summer time – this makes it the perfect time to find a dark spot in nature, away from the city’s lights, lay down on the grass or sand, preferably when the moon is late to rise, look at the skies and wait for some shooting stars.