The Earth sails through streams of cosmic debris as it orbits the sun. When specks of dust and ice left behind by comets or asteroids collide with our atmosphere, we experience meteor showers. But what weâre seeing are only the final moments of a particleâs path through space. Most flecks have traveled for millions of miles before we see them burn up (if weâre lucky).
Now, astronomers and engineers have created an animation that lets you witness the entire journey. Using data from the Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance, a network of about 60 cameras pointed at the sky above San Francisco Bay, researchers have recorded more than 300,000 meteoroid trajectories since 2010. They plan to use the data to confirm more than 300 potential meteor showers that scientists have observed, but not verified.
âEach dot that you see is a shooting star that was captured by one of our cameras,â said Peter Jenniskens, an astronomer at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif., who runs CAMS. His interactive transforms meteor showers like the Geminids and the Orionids into shimmering rivers of space rocks. Viewers can pinpoint the moment the Lyrids or Eta Aquarids light up the night by watching when their streams intersect with the Earthâs orbit, shown in blue. There is even an option to see all the meteor showers at once, making it look like a meteor hurricane.