Meteor Facts – Colors

Why are some meteors certain colors?

The next meteor shower the minor α-Centaurids won’t start until January 28th so I decided to give you some meteor facts. Most meteors appear to be white when they streak across the sky. Have you ever observed a multicolored meteor and wondered why? This is because the color of meteors can be based on their chemical makeup. Remember in your high school science class when your teacher used a Bunsen Burner and heated up different minerals or substances? Each mineral or element glowed with a different color. This is basically the same thing that occurs in our atmosphere when a meteoroid plummets toward Earth.

As a meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere heat and light energy is created. A meteor’s composition ignites and causes different colors. Meteors made of sodium produce orange/yellow light, iron will produce yellow, magnesium creates bluish/green, calcium makes violet and silicate meteors produce fiery red colors.

The velocity of the meteor also determines the color. Slow meteors are often reported as red or orange, while fast meteors frequently have a blue color. Certain colors can be associated with certain meteor showers because the meteoroids will commonly be made of the same materials and enter our atmosphere at similar speeds.

Until the next meteor shower the α-Centaurids starting January 28, keep your head up!
-Meteor Mark

16 thoughts on “Meteor Facts – Colors

  1. I thought I saw a blue one across the sky this evening, probably around 5:30pm PST. Nobody seemed to have seen it, however, and I couldn’t tell if it was debris of a plane crash or something.
    All I could say was that it was bright, blue to purple, and it shot across the sky (not vertically, more like diagonally). I have never seen a meteor shower in my life, so I really can’t tell what it is I see today. Besides, is it even possible to see just one but not a whole bunch of them?

  2. C,

    This was probably a sporadic meteor. What you saw was not a meteor shower. It is possible to see just one meteor or fireball. Please check out the glossary on our site to see what a meteor shower is.

    – Meteor Mark

  3. I witnessed a blueish meteor over Monterey Bay about !5 min. ago . Truly spectacular !

  4. I just witnessed a spectacular meteor falling over Monterey Bay ! Needless to say I made a wish .

  5. In response to post on Jan 19 @12:10 AM. I, too, saw a single streak across the sky in Venice, CA at about 5:30 PM. I was driving. What I witnessed was a white streak,shooting in an upward projectory until it seemed to burst & disappear. My 1st instinct was it was a shooting star, but realized it was too big for that & 2ndly, it was too early for stars. I was hunting around internet trying to find some information so was glad to disciver this website and to find the post. However, what I saw was white, not blue.

  6. Naomi,

    A “shooting star” is a meteor and a meteor is a fireball. The term “shooting star” is the colloquial term for meteor. Don’t confuse a “shooting star” with the stars you see in the sky they are very different.

    You can refer to the meteor glossary in the upper right hand corner of the website for more detailed information.

    Keep you head up,

    Meteor Mark

  7. my sister and i saw a fiery white-green meteor — the biggest ever seen in our lives last night shortly after 5:30pm. it was in the sky over the sierra nevada foothills near lake kaweah. is it possible that we all saw the same meteor from venice to monterey to three rivers, ca?

  8. E,

    It could be possible. I don’t know how far they are from each other. I suspect they are all spaced about 200 miles apart and if that is the case I might have to say “I doubt it”. I will have to further investigate this with some of my colleagues.

    – Meteor Mark

  9. Naomi,

    Anytime! Bookmark us. Meteor Shower activity is slow right now, but I will be posting some info about when you may be able to see a couple every minute or so.

    Keep in touch,

    Meteor Mark

  10. Last night around 10:10 or so my mother and I saw a very large light green meteor or meteor’s over Western NC. We are not sure if we saw one breaking up, or a few together. Do you have any info on the meteor we saw last night?

  11. Tina,

    Thank you for the post. This meteor was seen as far as eastern Tennessee. The meteor most likely did not hit Earth and was likely to have burned up high in the atmosphere. It may have been debris from a recent satellite collision, but it is still to early to tell. There is currently no major meteor shower activity occurring now, you may want to look at this post: Sporadic Meteors

    Please bookmark the site and check back with me, if I hear anything more I will be posting it.

    – Meteor Mark

    P.S. I have a feeling you may have seen some debris from the satellite collision.

  12. Thanks for getting back with me, my mother and I were almost in Cherokee NC. The direction that we saw the meteor was east (looked like it was over the parkway between Cherokee and Gatlinburg TN)

  13. Is it possible to see a meteor shower or a meteor in Honolulu, Hawaii?
    I have never seen one before and I really want to see one.
    I am doing a project on meteors and it would be really good if I got some pictures.
    Is there a good website that has nice pictures of meteor showers?

  14. Sarah,

    Yes it is possible to see a meteor shower in Hawaii. There won’t be much major meteor activity until April. Most images are copyrighted, so I wouldn’t know where to point you with you having to pay a fee for use of the images.

    Feel free to ask questions here, I would be glad to help you with your project.

    – Meteor Mark