What is a shooting star? Do stars really fall down from the sky?

Meteor showers occur when asteroid dust or particles enter the earth’s atmosphere at a very high speed. Upon interacting with the atmosphere, the meteors rub against air and create immense friction. The heat then vaporizes the meteors, which we refer to as shooting stars. Back in the day, meteors hitting the earth were random as neither the timing was known nor predictions could be made. However, today scientists are able to pinpoint the exact timing and location from where the meteor will enter the earth and the location it will land. These are known as regularly timed ‘meteor showers.’

Furthermore, meteor showers occur when the earth comes in contact with the particles left behind by a comet or asteroid. Depending on the location and trail of the particles, the meteor showers could be minimal or intense. In addition to that, the visibility of meteors depends on the size as well. If it happens to be a small meteor, there is a high possibility that it will break into pieces before hitting the earth. However, if it happens to be large, it could be visible and be seen from around 60 miles and will cause a brighter flash. Meteors of such size could impose serious harm on the property and living beings existing in the surrounding area.

History

Back in the day, the objects in the night sky were associated with religion and gods. However, the misunderstandings related to meteors prevailed longer than it was expected. While some people thought it was God’s wrath, others thought it was a gift from the angels. Furthermore, it was also believed that meteors fell from the clouds, and often scientists would not believe people who had seen such things. It was until in 1948 when the largest meteorite fell in a wheat field in Nebraska, United States. Those who saw the meteorite falling described it as a huge fireball in the afternoon, even brighter than the sun. The meteorite upon landing was found 10 feet inside the ground and weighed 2,360 pounds.

Impact on earth

When meteorites hit the ground, their speed is half as compared to what it was upon entry. Large meteors can explode above the surface, which can cause the pieces to fall and land in multiple locations and ensuing fire. One such instance took place on June 30, 1908, when people saw a meteor from hundreds of files entering the earth’s atmosphere and appeared like a giant fireball. It exploded and sent loud noises and hot winds while shaking the ground to break windows in the surrounding villages. However, no meteorite was found, probably because it had broken into thousands of pieces before landing.

The things that fall, and are called shooting stars, are really not stars at all. If a real star fell onto the Earth – or, rather if the Earth fell into a star – we should all be burnt up by the heat long before the Earth and the star could meet each other.

The things that fall are actually quite small stones, or pebbles, or balls of iron and other elements. They sometimes fall all the way to the Earth and can be picked up afterward. By far the greatest number of them, however, never reaches the surface of the Earth as stones or meteorites at all, for they are burnt or broken up into dust by the Earth’s thick atmosphere. A very great amount of dust in the air, especially in the higher levels of the atmosphere, is made of this meteoric dust.

We see only a few of the falling stars that are caught by the Earth’s atmosphere. Though they are falling all the time we never see those that fall in the daytime. They become bright and hot as they pass through the air, but not bright enough for our eyes to notice when the Sun is shining upon our part of the Earth. Quite a lot of the present matter of the Earth has been derived from meteors or falling stars in this way. The meteoric dust can sometimes be found lying on the snow of the high peaks of mountains.

To conclude, it is not necessary that every shooting star has to fall on earth. Sometimes they may fall when the sun is out as well and you may not notice. When we say that shooting stars fall from the sky, that may be slightly incorrect. As science today tells us that, they are simply meteorites that enter the earth’s thick atmosphere and accumulate heat due to friction. So, technically they are not falling from the sky rather getting in contact with the earth when the earth happens to bump into them.