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!