No, Comet Tails Don’t Make Meteor Shower…

No, Comet Tails Don’t Make Meteor Showers

“When the debris from a comet or asteroid collides with the revolving Earth, the incredibly fast relative motion causes these tiny particles to burn up in the atmosphere, producing a brilliant streak of light.

Most popular explainers attribute these showers to cometary tails, but that’s simply not true.

Tails, created by the Sun’s effect on a comet or asteroid, are pushed away from the Sun, and this material spreads out rapidly, never to collide with Earth.”

You’ve heard the simplistic explanation before: that comets emit tails, those tails collide with Earth, and that’s where meteor showers come from. It’s an explanation that even NASA has given from time to time, and it’s a complete fabrication. Meteors that you see during a meteor shower have literally zero connection to cometary or asteroidal tails, and that’s easy to show: tails are always emitted away from the Sun, so the next time this tail material orbits the Sun and comes back near Earth, it’s much farther away and won’t collide with our world at all. But there is a debris stream due to the breakup of the central core of the comet or asteroid in question, and that gets spread out along the orbit over time. When Earth passes through that debris stream, that’s where meteor showers truly come from.

Don’t miss the full story, including a slew of spectacular pictures, on this edition of Mostly Mute Monday!