New research conducted within the framework of the CAMS project (Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance) showed that meteor showers are much more complicated than scientists believed. It turned out that over time streams change the trajectory of the movement around the Sun, and do not follow the same path as previously thought.
Shifts of trajectories of meteor showers are clearly visible on the new animation, published on the official website of the project, the means for the realization of which are collected by the whole world. The animation captures the trajectory of motion through the solar system of more than 45 meteor showers.
As experts explain, meteor streams occur when the Earth passes through dust and debris in the orbits of asteroids and comets that cross the solar system. All this space debris burns in the Earth’s atmosphere, which observers traditionally regard as “falling stars”.
On a certain night it seems that all the meteors from the meteor shower are moving towards the Earth from one particular point of the firmament, which is called the “source”. Many observers consider it constant for each meteor shower. For example, it seems to observers from the Earth that the Perseids emanate from Perseus during their peak. However, a new study shows how the seeming sources of meteors wander through a meteor shower, reports portal Space.com.
According to the project manager Peter Jenniskens, representing the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center, scientists for the first time managed to get a visual demonstration of how a meteor shower looks in space, forming part of the solar system.
Observations of meteor showers in the framework of the CAMS project, which is headed by Jenniksens, began in 2010. During this time, video cameras operating at low illumination levels registered trajectories of more than 300,000 meteors. By combining all the trajectories, the researchers were able to visualize the streams of comets (and some primitive asteroids) in the solar system and establish how the flow trajectories and their direction of approach relative to the Earth change each year, which causes the streams to “wander” through the night sky.
Meteor streams move in the sky partly because the Earth moves along a curved orbit as it passes through the stream. However, even considering this factor, researchers have found out, some meteoric streams are also moving. The most visible deviations in the trajectories of short-term meteorite rains, such as Kappa Tsignida and Omikron Eridanida. Peter Jenniskens believes that this effect can be associated with the impact of planets on meteor showers.
As for longer meteorite rains, whose orbits go further and are less susceptible to the influence of Jupiter (for example, the famous Perseids), they are also impermanent. The study showed that the source of the same Perseids at the end of the meteor shower is somewhat shifted compared to its very beginning.
In total, scientists found 18 short-term and 27 long-term “wandering” meteor showers. The scientist expressed the hope that the presented visualization will inspire more amateur astronomers to join the project and supplement the meteorite observation network.