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Meteors over Bavaria: bright, frequent, and mostly harmless

Meteors over Bavaria: bright, frequent, and mostly harmless

Countless rocks of varying sizes move through the solar system in sometimes crazy trajectories. Most of the asteroids are safe in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is held there by the great gravity of the largest planet in the solar system. But again and again smaller bodies enter Earth’s orbit or even hit the Earth.

The atmosphere protects the Earth from meteorites

However, the Earth is well protected from space missiles by its atmosphere. Atoms and molecules circulate in Earth’s atmosphere like in a sphere of a ball: oxygen, water, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and more. Every body outside has to pass through here, slowed down by friction and heated up in the process—usually breaking and burning completely.

Shooting Stars – a whole swarm of meteors

The best examples of this Shooting starsThese are actually traces of dust from comets that leave behind each time they orbit the sun. Earth regularly passes through the paths of many comets, which is how typical swarms of shooting stars, such as the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December, arise. However, as a general rule, the lighting of the shooting star is not the burning body itself, it will be much smaller than seeing it burn. But a grain of dust penetrates Earth’s atmosphere with such force and speed that it causes individual atoms to glow. So we see a kind of subtle tunnel of the shooting star.

But there are always such large objects among the massive stars that they actually start to glow themselves: they are called bolides, or flares. In the case of the Perseid stream or the Taurids, for example, there are always many buttresses to see.

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