Did you know that the Great Meteor Procession occurred in 1913? This phenomenon was visible from northeastern Canada all the way to Brazil! Most meteor showers appear to radiate from a point, like a firework, and are only visible for a second or two. The meteors or ‘fireballs’ in the Great Meteor Procession appeared to follow an arc across the sky, were visible for minutes, and in some areas were accompanied by a rumbling sound! Scientists hypothesize that instead of dust from a comet, the source for the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 was a temporary second moon that disintegrated.
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Unfortunately, on the evening of February 9, 1913 much of the northeastern US was cloudy, so there were not too many sightings from that area. Those that did see the meteor procession called it ‘stately’ or ‘measured’.
A meteor is sometimes called a ‘shooting star’ or ‘falling star’. We see meteors when a piece of space debris burns up in the atmosphere. The word meteor comes from the Greek word ‘meteōros’, which means ‘high in the air’.
Although a meteor seems to fall very close to Earth, most are actually in the Earth’s mesosphere (about 76-100 km above the Earth’s surface). Most burn up in the atmosphere before they can every reach the ground.
The material for meteors comes from debris left by a comet or other patches of space debris left in the path of Earth’s orbit. That’s why some meteor showers are occur at the same time every year. That meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through that patch of debris each year.
Many meteor showers are named for the constellation in which they appear to ‘radiate’ from.
The Earth does capture a temporary ‘minimoon’ every now and then. Usually the object does not have a very stable orbit around the Earth because of the competing gravitational pulls from the Earth, Sun, and Moon. The temporary moons’ orbits last a year or so before leaving Earth’s orbit and becoming asteroids orbiting the Sun.