Meteors, comets & asteroids

Whether you are wishing on a ‘shooting star’ or wondering about the likelihood of an asteroid ending life on earth, read on for more about the origins of comets, meteors and asteroids. Plus, discover how you can learn to observe asteroids for yourself.




The Perseid (Per-see-id) meteor shower is one of the highlights of many meteor hunters’ calendar due to its high hourly rate and bright meteors caused by the Earth slamming into the debris left behind by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in July and August every year. It is called the Perseids because the meteors seem to originate from the constellation of Perseus. Astronomers call this point the meteor shower’s radiant.   

What is it, when is it and where can I see the Leonid meteor shower this year?

19th-century astronomers went beyond cataloguing the skies to understanding their composition and predicting what could not be seen.

The challenges of measuring everything from a fast-moving, wobbly platform through a haze.

It is a star, is it a planet or is it a plane? A handy guide to identifying that bright object you saw last night.

Hundreds of thousands of asteroids litter the solar system - while fragments of them rain down as meteorites - yet the first one was only found in 1801

Comets have fascinated us for hundreds of years as they hurtled past Earth as celestial sprays of fire but they are only now at all understood. 

What are comets, meteors, shooting stars, meteorites and asteroids made of? And what is the difference between them all? 

A meteor is a small piece of interplanetary matter entering the Earth's atmosphere and 'burning up' at a height of about 100 km.

What’s out there in space lurking close to the Earth and is it going to hit us?