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  1. Search Our Q&A Archive
  2. 10 Superstitions About Stars
  3. What causes a "falling star"?

If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower.

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Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to "rain" into the sky from the same region. Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is in the constellation Leo.

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The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus. Traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite from the searing friction with the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites. When a meteor appears, it seems to "shoot" quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star.

If you're lucky enough to spot a meteorite a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground , and see where it hits, it's easy to think you just saw a star "fall.

Impact with Earth

Get away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate. For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to "rain" into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p. After you've escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision.

The display lasts for a couple of weeks, but this year it peaks on May 6. It's probably not worth bothering driving a dark sky location, but May 6, and a few evening either side, is perfect for stargazing. Even if you don't see many shooting stars, you will see the Milky Way.

Those in the southern hemisphere get the best view for this one, but don't stress about it if you're in the north. Those in the northern hemisphere will also see shooting stars, though it pays to look generally south since the constellation of Aquarius is very low, and even under, the southern horizon.

10 Superstitions About Stars

If you cannot look on the peak night, a few nights either side will do almost as well. No, it will not be blue. So why bother looking? The rise of the full moon is one of the most incredible sites in nature, and it will be best viewed by looking due east at dusk on May The moon will look at its biggest when it appears on the horizon.


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So why is it called blue moon? There are two definitions, but the one that applies this month is that the flower moon is the third of four full moons occurring in one single astronomical season. The Moon will pass close to gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn in late May. Look south about for a good view. If you're up, grab any pair of binoculars and see if you can see Jupiter'ss four largest moons; Ganymede, Io, Callisto and Europa.

What causes a "falling star"?

You'll be surprised how easy these "Galilean" moons are to see with your own eyes. I'm an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-trave Share to facebook Share to twitter Share to linkedin.


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