Meteor
Michael Ellis

Last week was that much anticipated Leonid Meteor shower; the conditions weren’t that great but I did manage to see a few of them. These meteors appear to originate from the constellation, Leo, the ending, id, means a family member usually referring to royalty. So those so-called shooting stars were members of the Royal Family of Leo.

Meteoroids are small (usually) bits of sandgrain-sized cosmic debris that floats out there in space, waiting. Meteors are the flashes that occur when these particles enter our atmosphere and ignite due to friction. Rarely a big chunk will penetrate and not be burned up entirely but fall to earth. These are meteorites. Meteoroids, meteors, meteorites.

Only one person in the US has actually been hit by extraterrestrial debris. Mrs. Hewlitt Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama got a bad bruise on her hip when a meteor crashed through her roof, bounced off a chest of drawers, and hit her.

The winter rains have finally begun and that got me to thinking why are weathermen called meteorologists? What the heck do shooting stars have to do with predicting the weather?. Well the Greek root of the word, meteor, literally means to raise up.

Originally meteors referred to any and all atmospheric events that were visible above the horizon. There were aerial meteors; we now call this the wind. There were luminous meteors which would be rainbows, the aurora borealis, and the halos that we sometimes see around the moon. There were fiery meteors, that
would be lightning and shooting stars. And finally there was a separate category for the aqueous meteors, rain, hail, snow, and sleet. Now the only way we still use that word is in two entirely unrelated fields, climatology and astronomy.

Some TV weathermen have taken to calling themselves meteorologists but really now few of them have what I would call “star quality”.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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December 1, 2010