Why do meteors glow in vibrant colors?
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
Meteor showers are one of nature’s most brilliant spectacles, each one bringing a unique experience for stargazers, including meteors glowing in a rainbow of colors.
Meteor showers occur several times a year when the Earth passes through a field of debris, such as particles from asteroids or grains of dust from a comet.
This debris burns up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, giving off a flash of light that some refer to as a shooting star.
If seen out of the corner of your eye, a meteor may appear to give off a flash of white light, similar to the way stars appear. However, meteors can appear in a variety of colors if viewing conditions are clear or if they are captured in a photograph.
“The color of light that the meteors produce depends on their chemical composition,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.
“Different chemicals in the meteors produce different colors as they burn up while entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” Samuhel said.
For example, meteors made from primarily calcium will give off a purple or violet color, while those made out of magnesium will appear to have a green or teal color.
What a meteor is made out of is not the only factor that determines the color that it appears. The speed at which the meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere can also affect the color.
The faster a meteor moves, the more intense the color may appear, according to the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
“Among fainter objects, it seems to be reported that slow meteors are red or orange, while fast meteors frequently have a blue color,” the AMS said.
The Geminid Meteor Shower, one of the best meteor showers of the year, is a shower known for producing intensely colored meteors, Samuhel said. The Geminids peak in December.
The most common colors for this specific meteor shower are yellow, orange and sometimes green.
The Perseid Meteor Shower, another popular meteor shower that occurs every August, is also known for producing shooting stars that give off vivid colors.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 10:53:37 AM EST
Severe Cyclonic Storm Phethai in the Bay of Bengal to move into eastern India early in the week bringing damaging winds and flooding rainfall.
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 5:09:25 AM EST
Cold air diving into the northeastern United States to start the new week will be accompanied by gusty winds, snow and the threat for slippery travel.
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 11:04:44 AM EST
Storm Deirdre caused travel hazards, power outages and disruptions this weekend across the United Kingdom.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 11:38:54 PM EST
Large storms and cold air are likely to take a break over much of the nation during much of the week ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 5:40:13 AM EST
A storm will continue to bring rain, fog, ice and a wintry mix to parts of the northeastern United States this weekend.
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 11:19:46 AM EST
Rain, wind, mountain snow and rough surf will lash the Northwest and California through Sunday night as the barrage of Pacific storms continues.
Florence-ravaged areas face more river flooding as Wilmington, North Carolina, hits 100-inch yearly rain total
Weather News - December 16, 2018, 4:56:23 AM EST
Flooding will plague residents living along many swollen rivers in the southeastern United States despite dry weather taking hold through Wednesday.
Weather News - December 15, 2018, 10:29:25 AM EST
Residents of northern Queensland are enduring a second and more severe strike by former-Tropical Cyclone Owen.