It is estimated that between 40,000 and 80,000 tons of solid particles reach our planet every year. These, which are called meteoroids , are mostly fragments detached from asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun and that, when crossing the Earth’s orbit, impact our atmosphere at speeds between 12 and 72 km/s. .
Under these conditions, the friction that occurs with the air sharply raises the temperature of the meteoroid, so that both the molecules that are part of the solid and the molecules of the air that collide with it emit energy, thus observing a luminous trail that receives the name meteor (or, in colloquial language, shooting star).
The Earth’s atmosphere acts as a very effective shield that, in the vast majority of cases, destroys these meteoroids at high altitude. But sometimes, if the meteoroid is large and resistant enough and manages to survive its passage through the atmosphere, it hits the ground in the form of a meteorite .
Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the debris-filled path of a comet, which as it approaches the Sun and the ices ‘sublimate’ from solid to gas, spews out a stream of material that remains in place. . As these objects collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up as bright meteors, the brightest of which are known as fireballs.
Such showers are periodic reminders that Earth is sweeping away an environment littered with ancient remnants of the early Solar System. While safe, these impressive light shows offer a warning, as these many small fragments belie the larger objects they came from that once passed close to Earth’s orbit, and could do so again.
Using images from ground-based cameras across Europe , including an ESA-operated camera from the AllSky7 network in Cebreros, Spain, and cameras on the Southwest Europe Meteor Network ( SWEMN ), SWEMN calculated the trajectory of the ball of fire and trace its origins back in time . Entering the atmosphere at a height of 100 kilometers above Madrid and burning up 77 kilometers above the Spanish province of Guadalajara, the icy body is thought to have been about 10cm in size before contact with Earth.
The Fireball and Meteor Network of Southwest Europe is a project coordinated by the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) that analyzes the meteoric phenomenon, approaching it from multiple directions. Thus, the study of meteoroids, meteors and meteorites is carried out both from the astrophysical point of view and from the chemical point of view . Thanks to this, important data can be obtained on, for example, the origin, orbit and behavior in the Earth’s atmosphere of these materials. And, at the same time, it is possible to obtain fundamental information about its chemical composition.
The analysis and multidisciplinary study of meteoroids and the phenomena to which they give rise is of great importance both at a technological level and from a scientific point of view, constituting a very active area within Space Sciences. Thus, for example, these particles play a fundamental role in the safety of space missions and the operation of artificial satellites.
They also provide valuable clues about the chemical mechanisms that led to the appearance of life on our planet, since it is thought that meteoroids provided part of the molecules necessary for it to emerge.
The Alpha Capricornids meteor shower is believed to have been created between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago when half of Comet 169P/NEAT disintegrated into dust. The comet itself will have formed at the same time as our Solar System, about 4.6 billion years ago.
The dusty trail of this ancient comet has drifted into Earth’s orbit creating rare but reasonably bright meteors. At its peak, it only creates about five meteors per hour, but these are usually very bright and often turn into fireballs; particularly bright meteors.
As this drift continues, the rain is expected to become heavier. By the year 2220, it should be stronger than any current annual meteor shower.
THIS. 2022. Madrid meteor’s cometary origins unearthed. (Press Release)