NPR science correspondent Joe Palca is on a mission this summer to answer the deep, burning questions of summertime. So far he's taught us how to build a campfire, explained the best way to roast a perfect marshmallow and explored the icy mystery of brain freeze.
In this latest installment, Palca is looking toward the skies. Just what is a meteor shower? Meteor showers occur several times during the year. The latest one, the Perseids, peaked just this past weekend.
Meteors are pieces of space debris that plow into the Earth's atmosphere. Most of this debris is no bigger than a grain of sand on the beach, but sometimes they're big chunks of rock. Often these meteors come from junk spewed out by comets as they orbit the sun.
Comets are basically balls of ice and small clumps of dirt. Think of them as a kind of cosmic dump truck whizzing around the sun, shedding their load as they go.