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Falling Stars not beyond my interests.

  1. May 19, 2004 #1
    Would you please tell me why they are called falling stars ? Is it just because they are actracted by gravity force and fall into our planet ? Why do they fall mostly in oceans and deserts ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 19, 2004 #2


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    Never heard of the term 'falling stars' before, I assume there synomous with 'shooting stars'. They're meteors which enter the Earth's atomsphere, where frictional forces can heat them up enough so that they glow and are visible from the Earth's surafce. They may or may not actually hit the Earth (many will burn up in the earth's atmosphere). Yes like any object they attracted by the Earth's gravity.

    The obvious reason that they are more likely to land in the ocean is that 2/3 of the Earth's surface is ocean, but the surface terrain is not a factor in where they land (though it can certainly make it easier to find meteorites that have impacted or evidence of an impact).
  4. May 19, 2004 #3
    In sweden we use the term "falling star", or "stjärnfall" in swedish. :smile:
  5. May 19, 2004 #4
    Thanks for your answers,

    Yes, jcsd, that is exactly what I was asking...
    I still remember I met them twice when I was young, they were just small lights going down pretty fast the horizon and successfully vanished before I finished my wishes...
    I didn't know what correct terms I should use to describe them, and I am also not majoring in astronomy or such, but admittedly things about astronomy and the Universe are like myths to me. They really give me lots of interests to discovering and to learning...

    Again thanks a lot for your answers,
  6. May 19, 2004 #5


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    I have heard them called falling stars as well as shooting stars. Either is fine...they're non-technical terms. As said, the technical name (in English) is meteor. I assume the "stars" bit was named that way before people realized that were usually just the size of a grain of sand. A "meteorite" is a meteor that reaches the Earth's surface instead of burning up in the atmosphere (they start off much bigger than a grain of sand in order to survive the atmospheric friction). A "fireball" is an exceptionally bright shooting star. A "bollide" is a meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

    Most of the dust that hits the Earth as a meteor is left over trails from comets that criss-cross through space. Every so often, the Earth plows through one of these trails and the dust grains are captured by Earth's gravity...thereby striking the upper atmosphere (like 50-100 km up) and burning up (ablating away) due to their high relative velocity (many km per sec).

    I like that. But then again, I have some Swedish ancestry.
  7. May 19, 2004 #6


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    i'm from the UK, I think 'falling star' must be an Americanism.
  8. May 19, 2004 #7


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    John Donne (1571-1631) was as English as can be.

    "Go and catch a falling star,
    Get with child a mandrake root,
    Tell me, where all past years are,
    Or who cleft the Devil's foot..."
  9. May 20, 2004 #8


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    I am an amateur astronomer and was setting up my telescope one August night in 1979. I was looking down at the accessory tray of my tripod and noticed the moving shadow of my tripod and looked up. There was a huge bright bolide moving across the sky. It flared and split and the pieces split and split again, like a fireworks display. I watched it disappear and then just sighed - Wow! Then I noticed that I was looking at a glowing streak where the meteor had crossed. I thought that it was just a little burn-in of the retina, since it had been so bright, but when I moved my eyes, the glow stayed in the same place. The glowing trail gradually drifted east and faded over the course of the next few minutes. It was the most beautiful astronomical event I have ever seen, including sky-filling aurorae and two total solar eclipses.
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