The Night of the Shooting Stars

Every year, hundreds and thousands of rocky chunks the size of up to a house race into the earth’s atmosphere. But not all meteoroids are as big as the one that exploded above Chelyabinsk in Russia on February 15, 2013 and injured hundreds of people by glass from shattered windows.

The night sky above Les Ponts-de-Martel in the Jura mountains in Switzerland shows thousands of stars on August 15, 2013. For the photo, multiple long exposures were combined to show the rotation of the earth creating star trails.
The night sky above Les Ponts-de-Martel in the Jura mountains in Switzerland shows circular star trails and several Perseid shooting stars on August 15, 2013. For the photo, multiple long exposures were combined to show the rotation of the earth creating star trails.

The night skies in August bring hundreds and thousands of shooting stars. These meteor showers are called Perseids because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus. The Perseid’s annual appearance peaks on August 12.

The Perseids have been observed for two thousand years.

The meteor showers origin from the dust trail of comet Swift-Tuttle that is crossed by planet earth every year. Most of these meteoroids have the size of a pebble.

The Milky Way is pictured above trees at the Creux du Van in Switzerland on August 15, 2013.
The Milky Way is pictured above trees at the Creux du Van in Switzerland on August 15, 2013.

The shooting stars or meteors are visible paths of meteoroids. As layers of the meteoroid abrade and ionize, the color of the light emitted may change according to the layering of minerals from yellow (sodium) to blue and green (copper), purple (potassium), and red (silicate). Unusually bright meteors are called fireballs.

The meteors’ height is about 75 kilometers. They move very fast, much faster than aircrafts or satellites, and may generate sound in the upper atmosphere. The particles in the meteor cloud seen today are around a thousand years old.

A shooting star races over the night sky above Les Ponts-de-Martel in the Jura mountains in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. Shooting stars, or meteors, are visible paths of small particles racing into the earthÕs atmosphere making the air glow. These meteor showers are called Perseids. The yellow skyglow at the horizon is caused by artificial lighting in the cities Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds.
A shooting star races over the night sky above Les Ponts-de-Martel in the Jura mountains in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. Shooting stars, or meteors, are visible paths of small particles racing into the earthÕs atmosphere making the air glow. These meteor showers are called Perseids. The yellow skyglow at the horizon is caused by artificial lighting in the cities Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The Milky Way and two shooting stars (on the right) are pictured above a forest in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. The bright celestial body in the center of the photo is Vega,  the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere.
The Milky Way and two shooting stars (on the right) are pictured above a forest in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. The bright celestial body in the center of the photo is Vega, the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere.
Left: Star trails are pictured at the night sky in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. For the photo, multiple long exposures were combined illustrating the rotation of the earth. Right photo: The Milky Way is pictured above the Creux du Van in Switzerland on August 15, 2013.
Left: Star trails and a Perseid shooting star (middle right) appear at the night sky in Switzerland on August 15, 2013. For the photo, multiple long exposures were combined illustrating the rotation of the earth.
Right: The Milky Way is pictured above the Creux du Van in Switzerland on August 15, 2013.
The Milky Way appears as a glowing band arching across the night sky in Switzerland, August 15, 2013. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy containing 100 to 400 billion stars and planets, among them our solar system. The oldest known star in the Galaxy is at least 13.6 billion years old. The photo consists of four single exposures stitched together for a broad view of the night sky.
The Milky Way appears as a glowing band arching across the night sky in Switzerland, August 15, 2013. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy containing 100 to 400 billion stars and planets, among them our solar system. The oldest known star in the Galaxy is at least 13.6 billion years old. The photo consists of four single exposures stitched together for a broad view of the night sky.
Multiple exposures of the night sky are stacked to illustrate the appearance of shooting stars. These meteor showers are called Perseids because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus.
Left: Multiple exposures of the night sky are stacked to illustrate the high number of shooting stars. These meteor showers are called Perseids because they appear to come from the constellation Perseus. Their annual appearance peaks on August 12.
Right: The Milky Way spiral galaxy contains 100 to 400 billion stars and planets, among them our solar system.