Meteors, Meteors


Sequence of a -4m Perseid fireball recorded with the video meteor camera of Sirko Molau, Berlin.

General remarks

Meteors are the luminous result of tiny particles, called meteoroids, entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speeds (11...71 km/s). The meteoroids are debris released either from comets or asteroids.
Most spectacular meteor displays are caused when the Earth passes through a dense swarm of meteoroids close to the original orbit of their parent object. In this case we observe a meteor shower. The best known is the Perseids shower. Many other showers exist and can be observed at different times of the year.
Check also the shower calendar for the year 2011.
Meteors can be observed with various techniques. The optical methods include VISUAL, PHOTOGRAPHIC, and VIDEO observations. Descriptions, including details about advantages and disadvantages of the various techniques can be found on the IMO homepage, or on a page provided by Sirko Molau of the Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.

The meteor image shown here was obtained during the Perseid peak in 1994, observed from Last Chance Creek, CA. The -8m Perseid fireball appeared southwest of the Pleiades cluster in the morning of August 12.

Leonids between 1998 and 2002

In the years between 1998 and 2002 the Leonids produced great meteor showers. Peak rates reached `storm levels', i.e. more than 1000 per hour for about 20-30 minutes especially in the years 1999, 2001 and 2002. In the subsequent years, the rates dropped to the usual lower level known for the period between the dense meteoroid dust trails.

Fireballs & impacts

Other exceptional events are related to the entry of large, massive meteoroids. If the circumstances of their entry into the Earth's atmosphere are favourable, objects of several kilograms (and larger, of course) can survive the ablation processes and even fragmentation, and may result in meteorite falls - an example is described here. The respective fireballs are widely visible.
Objects exceeding tons of mass are less and less decelerated during their atmospheric passage and may either explode above the surface (`airblast'), or create impact craters.
There are search programs to detect potential hazardous objects, i.e. asteroids and comets which may collide with the Earth. The best known group dealing with objects approaching the Earth is the Spacewatch Project.
More information about asteroid hazards are found on a page about Papers & Preprints on Near-Earth Asteroids and the Impact Hazard by Clark R. Chapman, and in the NASA FACT SHEET.
The most famous example for an airblast, is the 1908 Tunguska catastrophe.
Information about meteors, meteorites and impacts, including a meteorite classification scheme, historic relations and impact craters as well as links to further sites are collected at this site of the Lunar and Planetary Lab.

Links to pages about meteors and of meteor enthusiasts:

The International Meteor Organization
Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.
Homepage of Peter Brown's group at UWO, London, Ont.
André Knöfels Homepage
Homepage of the Solar System Dynamics Group (I.P.Williams) at Queen Mary College, London, UK

Questions about observations:
Ulrich Sperberg
Südbockhorn 59
29410 Salzwedel
General Address:

Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.
Mehlbeerenweg 5
14469 Potsdam
Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.
Sirko Molau
Abenstalstr. 13b
84072 Seysdorf
Responsible for this page
Jürgen Rendtel
Eschenweg 16
14476 Marquardt

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