Sunday, March 26, 2023

Meteor showers reveal solar system secrets

Even though people are already watching meteor showers for hundreds of years, they still give scientists on Earth important information about the solar system.

Why it matters: The meteor tells us about the history of the solar system and where Earth and other planets came from by telling us about the asteroids and comets they came from.

  • By looking at meteor showers, space agencies and companies can learn more about the area around their spacecraft as they orbit the Earth.
  • Rocks and dust that move quickly can sometimes damage satellites and even make them useless.

What’s going on: Scientists are always keeping a close eye on the sky in November and December. Because that’s when most meteor showers usually happen.

  • At the moment, both the Taurid and Leonid meteor showers are happening. The Taurid shower is at its peak around the middle of the month.

Each meteor shower is different in its own way.

  • Taurids throw more fireballs because they are bigger, not faster (between that a pebble and a baseball). In comparison, the Leonids are fast, moving like a speck of dust despite how fast they are “Bill Cooke, who works at NASA as an astronomer, tells Axios.
  • A fireball is a meteor that is as bright or brighter as Venus in the sky.
  • In the middle of December, when the Geminid meteor shower is at its peak. The night sky may get did fill with bright fireballs.

This is how it works: Researchers all throughout the world utilize high-powered radar equipment to scan the sky for meteors.

  • Some radar systems are on all the time. But others that can find even the smallest meteors but are more sensitive and cost more to run are only on for short periods.
  • Axios did talk to Quanzhi Ye, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, College Park. He said that amateur astronomers who use their own cameras in their backyards also give important information to the field. Two kinds of information that now does give about meteors are when they happen and how regularly they happen.
  • He says, “You don’t need a million-dollar lab to watch meteors.” “Sometimes you can just use your eyes or spend a few hundred dollars and make your own cameras,” says the paraphrase.

Big picture: Meteor showers happen when the Earth moves through the dust left behind by comets or asteroids (solar system).

  • Some of these debris trails pass in front of Earth at about the same time every year. Other meteor showers can happen at any time because they depend on the orbits of comets and asteroids that have recently become close to Earth.
  • Scientists can learn more about the asteroid or comet that left dust and rocks behind by following the path of a meteor and measuring its speed, brightness, and color. They don’t go to the object in person to do this.

As you get closer: you’ll see that scientists in the field of meteorology are still questioning widely accepted ideas. About how our solar system came to be.

  • In 2021, a fireball seems over Canada. It came from a place in space where icy comets are thought to become common.
  • Scientists became did surprise to find out that the streaking meteor did look like a rock. This did make them question what they thought they knew about how the solar system started and grew.

An interesting puzzle: A new study that is now published in the Astrophysical Journal shows. A fireball as seen in 2014 became probably an object from between the stars.

  • Scientists are looking for interstellar meteors so they can find more things like them.
  • Scientists could learn more about the things in other solar systems without sending a mission to visit them. They could do this by studying interstellar meteors.

What to watch out for: Due to the small size of the field of meteor shower science. Many scientists today are re-examining data from the past few decades using modern statistical methods to try to learn something new.

  • Cooke says that there are about 100 of us. Many of the studies that did help us figure out what we know are now done from the 1950s and 1960s. So we can’t say for sure how accurate they are.
  • Scientists can now see a lot more fast-moving meteors than ever before because they did fix a problem with their equipment that made it hard for them to see them before.

Read more: Thousands of Facebook Employees May Be Fired

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