Big meteor last night!

There I was gazing up aimlessly into the sky last night when this brilliant white dot showed up out of nowhere. This object was much larger and much brighter than any other object in the night sky these days. I paused for a split second, discounting the possibility of it being an airplane, before I settled on what it most probably was: a meteoroid!

I stared at this relatively rare sight, as the meteoroid moved rapidly across the sky painting a short but very strong streak of light on the dark sky which we usually call "shooting stars". What was really amazing is that the meteor exceeded all the stars in the sky, both in size and brightness, by several magnitudes. The brightest object in the Maldivian night sky these days is Jupiter which can be seen right overhead around 8-9pm local time - imagine something brighter and atleast thrice larger! The famous Perseid meteor shower occurs this month and I suspect this one I saw was among them. However, the peak of the shower (July 25 - August 18) passed earlier this month.

The last time I saw a sizeable meteor was about 10 years ago. I vividly recall that meteor as being very blueish, extremely large and bright and traversed the sky in a blink of the eye to disappear into the horizon - it might have even crashed into the sea somewhere in Male' atoll!

Meteoroids are space debris in the solar system - essentially tiny bits of dust and rock left in the wake of comets in orbit around the sun. The Earth regularly comes into contact with these when it crosses the path of these debris during its orbit around the sun. The debris burn up almost entirely when they hit the Earth's atmosphere leaving that tell-tale streak of light commonly referred to as a shooting star (or "ginihila" as known in Dhivehi). Some of the larger debri may not burn up entirely and pass through the atmosphere to hit the Earth's surface as meteorites. Well, that's the scientific explanation... :-)