RESOURCES: Shooting Star Gallery

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  23 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5512, pp. 2281
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5512.2281a

In the 1400s, all atmospheric phenomena were called meteors: winds, rain, hail, rainbows, auroras, and lightning, as well as shooting stars. Although this history echoes today when we tune in to our local “meteorologist” for the weather report, it's been a good 150 years since scientists recognized meteors as clumps of matter that come from space.

The American Meteor Society's Web site offers a wealth of lore on meteors for both professionals and amateur sky watchers. There are great photographs, logs of meteor activity, primers on observing, and forms for reporting sightings—both ordinary meteors and the especially bright ones called fireballs. A link to a sister site covering both meteors and comets by Gary Kronks offers details of major meteor showers and tips on how to observe them. In mid-April, look for the Lyrids: about 10 meteors an hour, with occasional bursts of 100, especially on the best viewing days of 21 to 22 April.

Others sections detail various ways of tracking meteors. The radio scatter method, for instance, looks for the trail of ionized air left in a meteor's wake, while spectroscopy uses light spectra to reveal a meteor's speed.

Navigate This Article