What are shooting stars? Facts about shooting stars.

What are Shooting Stars? Facts About Shooting Stars

Have you ever looked up at the sky, and stood in awe as something drifted past you? Or better yet… most of you have probably seen those Disney movies where shooting stars brighten up the night sky as they fly on by. Whichever camp you fall into, chances are you’ve asked yourself: what are shooting stars?

That’s why, for this post, we’ll be taking you on the shooting star grand tour. Not only will we show you what shooting stars are, but we’ll also show you how, and even when, to view them. So if shooting stars are your thing -or even if you’re just a bit curious- you’ll definitely want to pay close attention today.

Shooting stars may seem very simple, right? A piece of something flying through the sky doesn’t seem that complicated, but to be quite up front, there really is a lot to know. This is why we’ll be breaking everything down into easy-to-read sections for you. This way, no matter how much you know about shooting stars, you’ll find some value here today.

Power Tip!

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Now, with that being said, here is a little map of what we’ll be showing you:

  • The mythical lore behind shooting stars
  • What are shooting stars?
  • What do shooting stars look like?
  • What are shooting stars made of?
  • How common are shooting stars?
  • How big are shooting stars?
  • How fast are shooting stars?
  • What is the best time to view shooting stars?
  • A brief recap of everything

Now that you know what we’ll be looking at, let’s get right down to the details.

Mythical lore around shooting stars

To kick this shooting star conversation off, we want to take a couple of steps back. Why? Because we think that the mythical lore surrounding shooting stars is super interesting. Therefore, before we kick off the science lesson, let’s start with the fun stuff.

The famous wishing star

When you were a little kid, there is a good chance that if you saw a shooting star someone told you to make a wish. This is due to the fact that shooting stars used to be perceived on a magical level, and if you were lucky enough to see one, your wish would come true. Also, many ancient cultures also believed that these stars would bring good fortune in general. Is it true? Well, that depends on what happens after you make your wish.

Fallen souls

Another popular lore surrounding shooting stars is that they’re actually souls that have fallen from the heavens. Each culture has their own reason as to why these souls are falling, but it’s definitely an interesting concept to think about. Also, the thought of souls falling from the sky is quite eerie.

Weather predictions

People in the past, and we think this is widely known, weren’t that great at predicting the weather. The seasons were known, sure, but not when it would rain or if there was a drought coming. Therefore, people used to look towards the stars for guidance, and farmers used to believe that a shooting star meant rain was coming soon. Is this one accurate? Not really.


Finally, the last myth that we feel is worth mentioning is that of love. This is due to the fact that people used to believe that -if you weren’t married- a shooting star symbolized that love would find you soon. So if you ever find yourself a bit lonely, and see a star shoot fly on by, maybe your time has finally come. Pretty cool thought, right?

So as you can see there is quite a bit of mythology around shooting stars. Not only were they used in an attempt to predict the weather, but people even used to think there was a huge spiritual aspect to them as well.

How much of it is true, well, that depends on how superstitious you are.

What are shooting stars

Now that we’ve taken a peak at the history around shooting stars, it’s time that we set some time aside to lay the facts out for you. As fun as they may be, myths don’t hold much value in the realm of science, so let’s get into the actual facts.

What are shooting stars? Are they actually stars?

Shooting stars may be called shooting stars, but this is not exactly the case. If you think about it, if it actually was a star, we would be in some serious trouble. Luckily, a shooting star is actually not that complicated once you understand what it is. So what are shooting stars? The simple answer is any small object that enters the Earth’s atmosphere from space.

So if shooting stars aren’t stars, why do they glow?

This is also a simple answer as well, and the reason that they glow is due to the fact that they become very hot. When something enters the Earth’s atmosphere, from space at least, it tends to burn up and gain quite a bit of speed due to the Earth’s gravity. This causes it to get that glowing aura that you see when they fly on by.

While they may not seem as exciting as you may have hoped, trust on this one, if you see one you’ll still be in awe either way. There is nothing like the sight of a flaming object flying through the sky.

What do shooting stars look like

Now that you know a little bit about what shooting stars may be, it’s time to take a look at what they look like. Sure, you’ve probably seen them shooting across the night sky once or twice, but do you really know what they look like? If you don’t, you’ll definitely want to pay close attention here.

So what do shooting stars actually look like?

A shooting star will usually resemble that of a glowing object flying across the sky. They will usually emit a yellowish -or orangeish- glow. This is caused by the heat they catch coming through the atmosphere. Shooting stars will also leave what looks like a glowing tail behind them as well.

Also, typically these stars are small, but they can vary in size. The reason that they’re called shooting stars is simple: they actually look like a star shooting through the sky.

So the short answer here is that they do really resemble a star shooting across the sky. Most shooting stars will look the same, because the glow is caused by heating up within the atmosphere.

What are shooting stars made of

While we may have shown you what shooting stars are, we want to be a bit more thorough with some of the details. Therefore, in this section, we’ll be taking a look at what these stars are actually made of. So let’s take this science stuff a bit further, shall we?

What are shooting stars made of, if they’re not actually stars?

Shooting stars can be made up of quite a few things. To be quite honest with all of you, the common shooting stars are made up of dust or rocks that come crashing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, while this may be the case, there are some rare objects that may look like shooting stars as well.

Now, with that being said, here is a short list as to what shooting stars are made out of:

  • Asteroid based rocks
  • Dust particles from space
  • Comets pieces
  • Rockets entering the atmosphere
  • Satellites entering the atmospheric
  • Payloads entering the atmosphere

Keep in mind that the last 3 items we mentioned are not considered shooting stars, but to be blunt, they’ll definitely look very similar. Also, the composition of shooting stars, to get a quick science lesson in here, is usually iron based. Just a little fun fact for you.

How common are shooting stars

Now that you know everything you need to know about what exactly a shooting star is, have you ever pondered how common they are? If people know this much about them, they have to be fairly common, right? Let’s have ourselves a look.

So just how common are they?

Shooting stars can occur at random, but they can also occur during meteor showers. If you want to actually get out there and see shooting stars, a meteor shower is probably your best shot. Oh, and if you thought they were rare, about 85,000 shooting stars glide through the Earth’s atmosphere every single year.

If shooting stars are common, why don’t I see them?

If you’re disappointed because you don’t see shooting stars very often, this is due to light pollution. If you live in an area that has a lot of light -this can be a city or even a densely populated suburb- the chances of you seeing a shooting star are very low. Luckily, if you find a dark zone near your area, you should be able to catch a few.

Check out this interesting YouTube video where photographer, Colin Legg, makes time-lapse movies of celestial scenes, from auroras, to eclipses, to shooting stars. Some of the scenes and images he captures are truly stunning.

Shooting stars are actually very common, but a lot of us don’t get to see them because of light pollution. Therefore, if you want to view them, your best shot is to find a dark area.

How big are shooting stars

Shooting stars obviously vary in shape and size. This should be obvious after we learned about what exactly shooting stars are, but just how big can they get? To answer that question, we’ll show you how small and large these shooting stars can get.

How small can shooting stars be?

Shooting stars may seem like they’re huge, and this is due to the flaming aura and tail that they leave behind. Now, while this may be the case, they’re actually quite small. For example, most shooting stars are really only a few millimeters in size. Also, even if they start off big, they tend to shrink down once they get burned up.

How big can shooting stars be?

We know that we said they could be quite small, but with everything, there are some exceptions. Don’t worry, they don’t usually get too big, but in some cases they can be a few meters in size.

Shooting stars are usually very small, and they don’t usually reach the ground either. It’s those big ones that you have to worry about, and those are very rare.

How fast are shooting stars

Shooting stars draw a lot of attention from the word shooting, right? When you think about the word shooting, you probably think of a bullet -or something else along those lines. Anyway, whatever comes to mind is probably very fast, so we want to take a look at just how fast these shooting stars are.

Do shooting stars have a good 0-60 time… or what?

Cars seem pretty fast, and even if a car seems slow to you, we bet that a plane breaking the sound barrier probably seems pretty quick. While this may be the case, shooting stars are much faster than you probably think. For example, the average speed of a shooting star ranges between about 23,000 miles per hour and 165,000 miles per hour.

Keep in mind that the speed varies greatly, because it really depends on how fast a shooting star enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Best time to view shooting stars

Now that you know what you need to, we bet that you want to get out there start watching them, right? That’s why, in this section, we’ll show you some of the best times to get out there and check out some quality shooting stars. So without wasting anytime, let’s take a look.

The Perseids meteor shower

The Perseids meteor shower is probably your best bet when it comes to viewing shooting stars at a designated time. This is due to the fact that meteor showers provide a great viewing experience, and at the peak time of the Persieds shower you can see up to 60 shooting stars per hour. When does this happen? Unusually towards the end of the July early August, so it’s more of a summer thing.

The Delta Aquarid Meteor shower

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is also another really good time to look for some shooting stars. This shower also tends to take place in July, but occurs right around the midway point instead. This meteor shower is a bit less intense, but you could still see roughly 18-23 meteors per hour.

When is the best time to view shooting stars?

If you really want to get the most out of the experience, make sure you get some sleep the day before. This is due to the fact that you’ll see the best results when you checkout the sky between 12 AM and 4 AM. So using night really isn’t the best way to describe it.

If you want to view shooting stars make sure you’re in an area with low light pollution. Once you do that, try to do some viewing during a meteor shower between 12 and 4 AM.

What are Shooting Stars – Recap

We know that we went over a lot of information today, but as always, we want to make sure that you leave here with all of the facts you can. Trust us on this one, shooting stars may seem simple, but there is really a lot more going on beneath the surface.

We hope that we’ve cleared all of your questions up, because we really did the best we could at breaking this topic down. While that may be the case, we understand that shooting stars can get confusing at times, so there is no shame in referring back to this article as a guide if you need to.

If you found this article interesting, be sure to check out our other, equally, interesting articles here on AstroJunkies.com.