The stars shine brightly above Mines: Satellites and Meteors

Over the upcoming break, if you find yourself looking up at the sky, ever so often if you are very observant, you will see small glimmers of light track across the sky. While some of these will invariably be meteors streaking to their demise, a handful of them chart an even path, growing lighter as they go overhead, then dying out as the go into the shadow of the Earth.

The first of these objects was observed for the first time on October 4, 1957, as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit. These days satellites are used predominately for communication as they allow for information, both public and covert, to be spread over a much larger distance than is afforded by ground based antennas. Along with these communications satellites there are many remnants of old launch systems, lost bolts and gloves, toolboxes, defunct machines, and of course a wide array of scientific instruments. By far the most spectacular of these man-made moons is the International Space Station, which can be seen passing overhead even in the most polluted skies.

While satellite hunting used to be done via radio transmissions back in the days of Sputnik, in modern time astronomers are lucky enough to have many dedicated people tracking these objects in the sky so the average amateur can easily find out what one of these objects they are looking at. There are entire sites which allow you to put in your location and can give out every single satellite that will pass overhead in the upcoming hours.

As mentioned, there is another type of object that you may see streak across the sky. These are very rarely man-made, and though the show is much shorter than a satellite crossing the sky, the sight of a meteor burning up in the atmosphere is much more enthralling. Every day, many thousands of meteorites find their way into the path of the Earth at which time a majority burn up before ever hitting the ground. The truth behind these is that when you see a meteor streak across the sky, at most it is the size of your thumb. The brighter they appear, the bigger they are, until at some point they are actually able to fall all the way to the ground. For the most part, these larger meteors do not actually fall to the ground as a whole rock, most explode a fair distance above which creates the blast craters like Tunguska or Barringer Crater. Regardless of their nature, meteors are always amazing sights, and even if it is not a meteor shower, a few of these can be seen every night as the Earth cleans up its orbit. Peace, and may the stars shine brightly in your skies.

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