Nothing is more fun for my kids than staying up late at night to watch a meteor shower. As we lay on our backs in the back garden, watching chunks of icy rock fall from the sky, the writer side of my brain starts to wonder what it would be like to observe the event from the other side...
Though now that you think of it, you’re considerably less icy than you were before. Things are starting to really heat up now. You’re moving so fast that the air in front of you doesn’t have time to get out of the way. The air in front of you has to compress to make room, which unfortunately causes it to heat up.
The glowing trail of burning debris behind you continues to heat up, becoming visible to the awestruck observers on the ground. “Fireball!” they scream delightedly.
The increased heat and friction begin to take its toll. Bits of your surface start flaking off, burning up behind you as you continue along at breakneck speed. You glance around and notice that some of your smaller companions have already completely disintegrated under the strain. Wimps.
You refuse to give in. The glowing trail of burning debris behind you continues to heat up, becoming visible to the awestruck observers on the ground.
“Fireball!” they scream delightedly.
As you bask in your well-deserved praise, a nearby explosion causes you to veer off course. One of your larger companions has exploded in the atmosphere. The onlookers scream something about a “Bolide.” Perhaps that was your former companion’s name. You feel a slight pang of guilt that you never really got to know him. The onlookers will expect you to have been friends since you appeared to have the same radiant, or starting position, in the night sky. Still, there’s nothing for it now. He’s gone and you remain.
You turn your attention back to Earth. It’s hurtling closer now. You’ll hit the ground in just a few seconds. You can barely contain your excitement. Soon you’ll be a meteor no longer; instead, you’ll be known as one of the rarest of space-born objects: a meteorite.
You can’t wait to see the looks on the onlookers' faces when they see—kaboom!
That's how I imagine the lonely meteor would reason (if he had that distinctly human ability). To learn more about meteors, check out The American Meteor Society web site.
If you liked today’s episode, you can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.