Meteor Seen from the International Space Station

The term meteor actually refers to the streak of light caused by a piece of space debris burning up in the atmosphere. The pieces of debris are called meteoroids, and remnants of the debris that reach Earth’s surface (or another planet’s) are called meteorites.

When a small ­meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it goes from traveling through a vacuum to traveling through air. Traveling through a vacuum is effortless — it takes no energy. Traveling through air is another story:

Earth’s atmosphere is full of matter, which creates a great deal of friction on a traveling object. When the meteoroid hits the atmosphere, the air in front of it compresses incredibly quickly. This causes friction and it generates enough heat to raise the meteoroid’s surface to its boiling point, so the meteoroid is vaporized, layer by layer.

The friction breaks the molecules of both the meteoroid material and the atmosphere into glowing ionized particles, which then recombine, releasing light energy to form a bright “tail.”

(Source: goo.gl)


Posted 6 months ago with 1,086 notes
Tagged:Astronomyscienceatmospheremeteorissphysicsgif

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