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Meteors, Meteorites and Meteoroids

What is Meteor?

A Meteor also known as a falling star is an object normally a rock or dirt that is burning up in the upper atmosphere. Meteor, Meteorite and Meteroid are three terms that refer to the different stages in which a piece of debris travels through space and lands on Earth.

Stages and Differences of Meteroid, Meteor and Meteorite

Hollywood Movies

A lot of people have heard of this phenomena thanks to the Hollywood blockbusters Meteor (1979), Deep Impact and Armageddon ( Both 1998 ). In those films, the scientists know what is going to happen so they can prevent it. The scientists in the films come up with elaborate plans on how to destroy the meteor but in reality, wouldn't work.

Detecting a Meteor Threat

In reality, there are so many meteoroids up there and so small a number of people looking that its going to take a lot of luck to find the doomsday object. It is alleged that a meteor collision with the upper atmosphere was detected causing Defense staff to wake President Bill Clinton. New Scientist.

In 1908 a meteorite exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, Russia destroying a large area of land. Death was minimal because it was a relatively low inhabited part of the world. Another meteorite crashed into a village in Canada at about the beginning or before the 20th Century which did cause death. The aftermath of a meteor crash on New York would be incalculable. The likelihood of a meteor smash on a heavily populated is tiny, these area cover a fraction of the earth surface so the possibility of it hitting a densely populated area is small.

When a Meteor is detected, it is usually never kept secret, it is revealed in press briefings. Sometimes the Meteor is only detected late and by that time has proven not to be a threat.

The worlds land mass takes up only a third so it is more likely it would hit into the water but they you would have to worry about a tidal wave. It should be remembered a meteorite is blamed for the death of the dinosaurs which people believe will happen again. All it takes is for a meteor that is 3 miles wide ( roughly the size of Canvey Island ) to crash into the earth to cause all or the majority of life to disappear. Every year the earth are hit by meteor showers as it orbits the Sun, Most if not all meteor showers are associated with a Meteor and when they approach the sun then the shower can be spectacular. Below is a table detailing a small number of meteor showers that we encounter every year.

Dealing with a Meteor Threat

Given enough warning, the greatest minds on the planet could put together a plan to stop the meteor from destroying all life on Earth. The ideas could range from firing a massive nuclear missile at the meteor and breaking it up. There is a big problem with using a nuclear device in that you can't be sure that the meteor would break into enough small pieces that it doesn't cause a mass extinction. Even so, when the missile hits the meteor, the meteor will break up and each rock will be radioactive so if they fell to Earth, whichever side of the planet they fell on, there will a huge amount of radioactive area on the planet.

A better way to resolve the situation is to do something that will nudge the meteor out of the path of the Earth. The earlier you did this, the less energy and angle of movement is needed to cause the large rock to change course and get out of the way. This is the one favoured by most people.

If a meteor hit the Earth, it would cause just as much damage if it hit the water as it did if it hit landfall. When the rock hits the water, a Tsunami would destroy everything in its path.

In the BBC Series, Space with Sam Neill, Tech Sgt. Rob Medrano of the United States Air Force said that they monitor the skies for possible meteor strikes. They notice about roughly four major meteor strikes a month.

Meteor Showers

A meteor shower is a relentless period of meteors hitting the Earth. The meteors in question are normally debris left from a comet or an asteroid as we cross their path. They occur at roughly the same period every year. Some can be quite spectacular if the associated object has recently come close to The Sun. The meteors in a meteor shower are likely to be small fragments, none that would not burn up in the atmosphere and become a meteorite.

Most of the meteor showers are named after the constellation and the Star that is closest to where meteor shower radiates out from. However, the Quadrantid, although they occur within the Bootes constellation, occur on the north-westerly end of the constellation boundaries are named after a now defunct constellation. Although, the meteorites are normally tiny specs which burn up in the atmosphere and that is what you see when they streak across the sky. Although if you look at the table below you might draw the conclusion that meteor showers are a Autumn/Fall phenomena, they're not really as I've not included all as yet.

QuadrantidsBootes2003 EH1Jan 01 - Jan 05 Jan 03
Gamma VelidsVela1-17 Jan5/8 Jan
Rho GeminidsGemini28-Dec - 28 Jan8/9 Jan
January DraconidsDraco10-24 Jan13/16 Jan
Eta CrateridsCrater11-Jan - 22 Jan16/17 Jan
Delta CancridsCancer14-Dec - 14 Fen17-Jan
Lambda BootidsBootesJan 17-18Jan 17
Alpha HydridsHydrus15-30 Jan20/21 Jan
Eta CarinidsCarina14-Jan - 27 Jan21 - Jan
Alpha LeonidsLeo13-Jan - 13-Feb24/31 Jan
Zeta AurigidsAuriga11-Dec - 21 Jan31-Jan
Alpha CentauridsCentaurusJan 28 - Feb 21 Feb 07
Beta CentauridsCentaurus2-Feb - 25 FebFeb 8/9
Omicron CentauridsCentaurusJan 31 - Feb 19Feb 11
Chi CapricornidsCapricornus29 Jan- 28 Feb13-Feb
Theta CentauridsCentaurusFeb 12 - Feb 16Feb 14
Sigma LeonidsLeo2002 GM5?9-Feb - 13 MarFeb 25 - 26
Delta LeonidsLeoTempel-TuttleFeb 15 - Mar 10 Feb 25
Rho LeonidsLeoFeb 13 - Mar 13Mar 1 - 4
Pi VirginidsVirgoFebruary 13-April 8Mar. 3-9
March LyncidsLynx25 Jan- 15 May07-Mar
Gamma NormidsNormaFeb 25 - Mar 22 Mar 13
Eta VirginidsVirgoD/1766 G1 (Helfenzrieder)?February 24-March 27Mar. 18/19
Beta LeonidsLeoFeb 14 - Apr 25Mar 19/21
Eta DraconidsDracoMar 22 - Apri 8Mar 29/31
Theta VirginidsVirgo2011 HP4March 10-April 21Mar. 20/21
Kappa SerpentidsSerpens1 Apr- 7 Apr05-Apr
Alpha VirginidsVirgo1998 SH2?March 10-May 6Apr. 7-18
Gamma VirginidsVirgoApril 5-21Apr. 14/15
April PiscidsPiscesApril 8-29Apr. 20/21
LyridsLyraThatcherApril 16-25Apr. 22
Pi PuppidsPuppis26P/Grigg-SkjellerupApr 15 - Apr 28 Apr 23
Mu VirginidsVirgo1-Apr - 12-May24 - Apr
Eta AquariidsAquariusHalleyApril 21-May 12May 5/6
Omega CetidsCetus5 May- 9 Jun07-May
Daytime Epsilon ArietidsAries24 Apr- 27 May09-May
Eta LyridsLyraC/1983 H1 (IRAS-Araki-Alcock)May 03 - May 12 May 09
Omicron CetidsCetusMay 7-June 9May 14-25
Alpha ScorpiidsScorpius2004 BZ74?21 Apr- 26 May15-May
Epsilon AquilidsAquilaMay 4-27May17/18
CamelopardalidsCamelopardalis209P/LINEARMay 23 - May 24May 24
South Omega ScorpiidsScorpius23 May- 15 Jun31-May
North Omega ScorpiidsScorpius23 May- 15 Jun31-May
ArietidsAriesHalleys CometSept 7-Oct 27Oct. 8/9
Daytime Zeta PerseidsPerseus2P/Encke20 May- 5 Jul09-Jun
June LyridsLyraJune 10-21Jun. 15/16
SagittariidsSagittariusJun 1 - Jul 15Jun 19
Delta PiscidsPiscesJun 20-26Jun 23
Pi CetidsCetusC/1874 G1 (Winnecke)?16 Jun- 4 Jul26-Jun
June Scutids (Eta Serpentids)Scutum2 Jun- 29 Jul27-Jun
June BootidsBootes7P/Pons-WinneckeJune 27-July 5Jun. 28/29
Daytime Beta TauridsTaurus2P/Encke5 Jun- 17 Jul28-Jun
Tau AquariidsAquarius27 Jun- 6 Jul28-Jun
July PhoenicidsPhoenixJuly 9-17Jul. 14/15
Southern Delta AquariidsAquarius2008 Y12Jul 12 - Aug 19 Jul 28
Piscis AustrinidsPiscis Austrinus15 Jul- 10 Aug28-Jul
Beta CassiopeidsCassiopeia3 Jul- 19 Aug29-Jul
Alpha CapricornidsCapricornus169P/NEATJul 03 - Aug 15 Jul 30
Southern Iota AquariidsAquariusJuly 1-September 18Aug. 6/7
Eta EridanidsEridanusC/1852 K1 (Chacornac)?3 Aug- 14 Aug09-Aug
PerseidsPerseus109P/Swift-TuttleJuly 23-August 22Aug. 12/13
Northern Delta AquariidsAquariusMarsden and Kracht Sungrazing July 16-Sepember 10Aug. 13/14
Kappa CygnidsCygnusAug 03 - Aug 25 Aug 17
Gamma LeonidsLeoAug 14-Sept 12Aug. 25/26
Northern Iota AquariidsAquariusAug 11-Sep 10Aug. 25/26
Gamma DoradidsDorado27 Aug- 3 Sep28-Aug
Alpha AurigidsAurigaAug 25-Sept 6Sept. 1/2
Gamma AquariidsAquariusSeptember 1-14Sept. 7/8
PegasidsPegasusC/1979 Y1 (Bradfield)July 7-13July 9th
September PerseidsPerseusSep 05 - Sep 17 Sep 09
September Epsilon PerseidsPerseus5 Sep- 21 Sep09-Sep
Daytime SextantidsSextans2005 UD9 Sep- 9 Oct27-Sep
Delta AurigidsAurigaSep 18 - Oct 10 Sep 29
DraconidsDracoOctober 6-10Oct. 9/10
Tau CancridsCancerOct 9-25Oct 17
Epsilon GeminidsGeminiOct 14 - Oct 27 Oct 18
OrionidsOrion1P/HalleyOctober 15-29Oct. 21
Leo MinoridsLeo MinorC/1739 K1Oct 19 - Oct 27 Oct 23
Southern TauridsTaurus2P/EnckeSept 17-Nov 27Oct. 30-Nov. 7
AndromedidsAndromeda3D/BielaOct 26-Nov 20Nov 08
Northern TauridsTaurus2P/EnckeOct 12-Dec 2Nov. 4-7
November Iota AurigidsAuriga1 Nov- 23 Nov15-Nov
LeonidsLeo55P/Tempel-TuttleNovember 13-20Nov. 17/18
Alpha MonocerotidsMonocerosNov 15 - Nov 25 Nov 21
PhoenicidsPhoenixD/1819 W1 (Blanpain) /2003 WY25Nov 29-Dec 9Dec. 5/6
Puppid/VelidsPuppisDec 01 - Dec 15 Dec 07
Delta ArietidsAriesDecember 8-January 2Dec. 8/9
MonocerotidsMonocerosNov 27 - Dec 17 Dec 09
Sigma HydridsHydrusDec 03 - Dec 15 Dec 12
GeminidsGemini(3200) PhaethonDecember 6-19Dec. 13/14
December Leonis MinorisLeo Minor5 Dec- 4 Feb20-Dec
UrsidsUrsa Minor8P/TuttleDecember 17-25Dec. 22
Coma BerenicidsComa BerenicesDec 8-Jan 23Dec. 18-Jan. 6

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C. Sheats
I really appreciate you information. It hadn't clicked that the different names had specific meanings until you pointed it out. I only have one question. You said, "It is said a meteor collision with the upper atmosphere that caused the American President to be woken up." What president, when? Thanks for your info, I especially appreciated the list of meteor showers.