Some of my favorite memories are of dark, crisp nights with the stars shining steadily against the blackness, so close I can almost touch them. Coyotes howl in the distance, tiny creatures are rustling in the bushes nearby, when suddenly out of the celestial darkness the corner of my eye catches a little spark. In an instant a “shooting star” makes a quick streak spanning ten or twenty degrees, flashes, and disappears. A particularly bright meteor might leave a thinly glowing trail, faintly visible after the meteor itself is gone. A real fireball might take a few seconds to streak from one horizon to the other, dropping occasional sparks or splitting into two or more pieces before its terminal flash. During the Leonid meteor shower of 2003, with the constellation Leo near the zenith, I watched a nearly head-on meteor flash and explode. It left a ghostly glowing smoke-ring that remained clearly visible for 5 minutes, as it slowly expanded and dissipated.
KeywordsMeteor Shower Population Index Meteor Stream Meteor Study Meteor Path
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