Spark image

Looking at meteorites - shooting stars

If you look at the night sky then sometimes you may see what looks like a star flash across and then vanish. This is a shooting star, or to give it its proper name - a meteor.

Meteorites are pieces of rock that are flying round in space, they are usually quite small. When the Earth meets up with a cloud of these as it travels through space the meteorites plunge down through the Earth's atmosphere.

Like space craft the friction between the air and the meteorite makes the rocky lumps very hot. So hot that they catch fire. It is this fiery shower of sparks that you see as a shooting star that we call a meteor

Most meteorites are so small that they burn up before they hit the ground. Some are much too big to do this and the remains of these do get to earth. There is a large crater in Arizona in the USA that was made by a meteorite and a very large meteorite fell in eastern Siberia in the early part of the twentieth century destroying a huge area of forest. There is a very good museum in Rochouart in central France that shows the effects of the meteorite that feel near the village a long time ago. The largest meteorite of all was one that fell onto the Earth many thousands of years ago, throwing up huge clouds of dust into the atmosphere causing the planet to cool and probably ending the reign of the dinosaurs.

Astronomers think that most of the craters on the Moon were made in this way.

If you are patient you can see meteorites on most nights of the year. The map on this page will tell you where you may see the most at different times of the year. It is useful to record those that you see on a map.

When to look:
1. 2nd - 3rd January
2. 19th - 22nd April
3. 9th - 14th August
4. 16th - 22nd October
5. 14th - 18th November
6. 17th - 23rd November
7. 9th - 12th December
© Keith Gibbs 2020