There are hundreds and thousands of celestial objects in the vast outer space, and we can only hope to discover all of them someday.
However, thanks to the recent developments in modern technology, humans have uncovered some of the said objects, which are truly fascinating.
In this article, we will be talking about meteors, which are also celestial bodies in outer space.
Do meteors orbit around the sun? No, meteors don’t orbit around the sun since they are called meteors only after entering the Earth’s atmosphere, usually in the form of meteor showers.
Are you wondering what meteors are or where they come from? Or are you thinking about what would happen if a meteor was to hit our planet? If so, don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place.
Stay with us till the end, and we will tell you everything you need to know about meteors and their origin.
What are Meteors?
Although it may seem like it, meteors are not just giant rocks from space. They are almost completely made up of minute particles of dust or sand that together form a rock.
Meteors are tiny pieces of large meteoroids, asteroids, or comets, that often collide with each other in space. We will discuss it in more depth in the later sections of the article.
Meteors are frequently referred to as “shooting stars” or “falling stars,” which might result from their blazing appearance like a streak of light as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Do meteors orbit around the Sun?
No, meteors do not orbit around the sun. But, like the other celestial bodies such as the asteroids, comets, and planets, meteoroids revolve around the sun.
After being separated from an asteroid, the meteoroids often wander around the sun, following their celestial parent body.
The trajectory of the meteoroids is different than any other celestial body. They tend to follow the elliptical orbit while revolving around the sun.
Meteors, Meteoroids, and Meteorites: How are they different from one another?
Meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites: these three are very common terms when we talk about outer space.
But have you ever wondered about the relationship between these three seemingly similar celestial bodies? If so, then get ready to find all your answers in this section.
All these three celestial objects have a similar structure; the only exception lies in their geographical location.
A meteoroid is a small space rock that is actually an untethered part of an asteroid or a comet’s tail. They can be found in our rocky inner planets and the other gas giants of the outer planets.
These lumps of rocks are scattered throughout our solar system, even at the farthest points of the Kuiper belt and Oort clouds.
A large number of meteoroids also originate from the collision of two or more asteroids in the asteroid belt (a frequent occurrence), which lies between the planets of Mars and Jupiter.
Meteoroids are made up of clay, silicates, iron, and nickel. Iron and nickel meteoroids are denser and heavier in mass, while those made of clay and silicates are fragile and lighter in weight.
A meteoroid becomes a meteor when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. The naked eye can see it as a bright streak of light with a fiery tail. Meteors find it difficult to sustain in the
Earth’s atmosphere and burn up long before it even touches Earth’s surface.
On the other hand, meteorites are some of the fortunate meteors that find the Earth’s atmosphere sustainable.
While most of them are very small and land-like in the form of little rocks, a few of them are large enough to make craters on the Earth’s surface.
Fun fact: Sometimes, the tail of a meteor (made up of dust particles and debris) can often light up with a red, yellow, or green hue.
The reason behind this unusually beautiful sight is the ionization of molecules of the metals that comets are made up of, like magnesium and calcium.
What is the relationship between an asteroid and a comet?
Asteroids are space rocks comprised of clay and silicate particles.
These rocks are the remnants of other, larger rocks from the solar system, which would have been a planet if they hadn’t crashed into other celestial objects. Asteroids were formed close to the sun. They are rockier than comets.
Comets are space rocks as well, but instead of clay or silicate, they are made of ice, dust, and rocky materials.
Interestingly, comets lose their components with every orbit around the sun as the ice starts melting and vaporizes to look like a tail.
As compared to comets, asteroids are formed in much closer proximity to the sun. Also, the surface of asteroids is rougher than that of comets.
Where do meteors come from?
Every once in a while, we are pelted by the chunk of rocks from space. But where do they come from? What about their origin? Read on to know the answers to all of these questions.
Meteors are separated from the asteroid belt or the tail of a comet, as we have already mentioned above. But how do they land on Earth?
The asteroid belt is located between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits. As a result of the collisions of the asteroids in the belt, meteoroids are formed.
The force of the collision is what determines the distance of the meteoroids from the asteroid belt.
A minimal force collision is usually unable to send the meteoroids formed by it outside the asteroid belt, which is why those meteoroids orbit around the sun within the belt.
However, a brutal force collision can easily send a few meteoroids into the orbit of the Earth or the moon.
Fun fact: Until recently, it was believed that all the meteors were formed in our solar system. However, the current study of a newly found meteor states otherwise.
How fast can meteors travel?
Normally, the speed of an average meteor is somewhere between 11 kilometers per second to 71 kilometers per second.
The fastest meteoroids of our solar system can travel at a speed of 42 kilometers per second.
What will happen if a meteor hits the Earth?
If a meteorite hits the Earth in a large city such as Montreal, the whole city will be wiped out. The crater left in its wake will be approximately ten to twenty times larger than the diameter of the meteorite.
It implies that the landing spot will bear a hole ten to twenty kilometers wide.
The impact of the crash is likely to cause an earthquake of a great magnitude on the Richter scale, and northeastern America will likely face the burn of it.
Let us suppose a meteorite chooses to hit a water body instead, in which case; it will birth a large-scale tsunami. The tsunami will again most probably be the cause of huge destruction of loss and property.
Either way, the impact will produce airborne debris on the Earth that will block the sunlight for more than half of the Earth’s surface area for many years to come.
Ultimately, the temperature of our planet will drop to a degree in which humans, animals, and plants would not survive. Simply put, life will no longer be a possibility on Earth.
Our planet gets approximately 30 meteor showers every year, which are visible to humans from the naked eye. Some of these showers are more than 100 years old.
The Perseid meteor shower, which occurs every year in August, was first observed some 2000 years ago and had a record in the Chinese annals.
Another meteor shower, referred to as the “Leonid meteor shower,” occurs every year around 17 November. This meteor shower also produces a meteor storm approximately every 33 years.
Interestingly, it is because of the occurrence of Leonid meteor storm that the term “meteor shower” came into existence. For the first time in November 1833, the meteors radiated near the star “Gamma Leonis.”
Fun fact: Meteor showers are named after the constellation in which their radiant is located. “Perseids” comes from “Perseus”.
In this article, we talked about the path of a meteor and whether it orbits the sun. We also differentiated between the terms “meteoroids,” “meteorites,” and “meteors,” which has been a confusing topic for many.
The origin of a meteor, along with its speed, has also been discussed in detail. Lastly, we talked about the meteor showers that are seen most frequently.