Zooming Around with Zoe: Fireballs in the night sky

Zooming Around With Zoe

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — You may think your only chance to see a shooting star is during meteor showers. Although these showers do draw the most attention, meteors are actually visible any time of year.

Most people see meteors during a shower because there are so many of them. The one happening in August is called the Perseids, where you can see up to 100 per hour. However, meteors can be seen year-round, although it is much rarer.

Every day, the Earth is bombarded with dust and sand-sized particles from space. Occasionally, one of the particles is large enough to produce a brilliant display across the sky, which appears brighter than Venus, also known as a fireball.

The Center for Near Earth Object Studies created a map showing where the location of large fireballs was detected since 1988. All these events stem from asteroids larger than one meter in diameter. The larger the dot, the more total energy was observed.

Scientists estimate the largest fireball ever recorded lit up the sky in February 2013 over Russia and measured over 65 feet across.

Meteor showers, on the other hand, are generally much smaller, ranging from the size of a grain of sand to centimeters across. While a fireball, or meteor brighter than Venus, is still possible during showers, it happens very infrequently.

Even if you missed this month’s meteor shower, don’t worry. Just keep checking the night sky and who knows, you may catch a glimpse of a rare fireball for yourself.

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