This week arrives Geminids. Despite not being as famous as the Perseids, for many people it is the most special meteor shower of the year. This is because its intensity is approximately the same as that of those known as tears of San Lorenzo. But, furthermore, the color of shooting stars it’s very different. While the Perseids have the typical orange color, the Geminids have a light between blue and greenish.
This is due to several factors, among which the composition of the asteroid stands out. 3200 Phaeton, whose debris causes this meteor shower every year. In reality, the color of shooting stars, as well as any meteorite, is mainly due to that. To the composition of the object from which they come. Although it also comes into play speed.
In the case of the Geminids, they come from fragments rich in nickel and magnesium, which cross the sky at high speed. This is the cause of that characteristic color. But what does its composition and speed have to do with its tonality?
The reasons behind the color of shooting stars
When talking about the color of shooting stars, we are actually talking about any remains of dust or fragment of a space object that, when crossing our atmosphere, is ignited by friction.
The atoms of any element are composed, broadly speaking, of two structures: the corewhich is located inside, and the Cortex, which is located outside. In the core there are protons and neutrons, more sheltered, while the electrons are found in the crust. These are, therefore, the ones that are most exposed to the energy changes to which atoms are subjected.
In the crust, electrons are arranged in layers, through which they can move when absorb or release energy. If the electrons in a fragment of an asteroid become extremely excited by the impact with the atmosphere, they will jump to a higher level, releasing light, whose wavelength (and therefore its color) will depend on the element to which that atom belongs. This can help us know its origin.
In reality, it is something that applies to other phenomena, such as fireworks color. Or even the northern lights. Some are more reddish and others more greenish, basically due to the composition of the atmosphere. This will be more or less the same everywhere, but may have variations due to contamination.
What about speed?
The color of shooting stars is also due to their speed. This is because, when the remains of dust that cross the atmosphere are ignited, the particles of the particles are also excited. atoms present in the air, around it. Oxygen and nitrogen predominate in the air, which light up in shades of red. However, this is only observed when the meteor is very slow.
If their speed is greater, the color of the shooting stars dominates that of the surrounding air. This is precisely what happens with the Geminids that we will soon be able to see.
As for the causes of this speed, there are mainly two. On the one hand, the speed at which the object that generated the debris moved. And, on the other, the way in which find with the Earth. This is explained in an article on this topic recently published in IFLScience: “An object whose orbit causes a head-on collision will produce a much faster flash than one traveling in the same general direction as the planet, only to be overtaken.”
In short, the color of shooting stars like the Geminids can be explained by several reasons. But it doesn’t matter what it is. What is clear is that they are beautiful meteors and that it is worth going out to see them. Don’t forget: its peak will be the night of December 14 to 15.