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Meteor showers: When and how to watch

By: Katherine Butler on Aug. 9, 2012, 12:12 p.m.
fiery debris in space

Photo: NASA/ESA/Jesse Carpenter/Bill Moede

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Not all 'meteors' are natural

In the past 50 years, nonworking satellites, dust from motors, defunct rockets, and even paint chips have begun circling the globe. Space junk speeds around the globe at up to 6 miles per second, according to NASA. In May 2011, a meteor or space debris “event” of unexplained fireballs rattled nerves across the southern United States.

So what happens when this space debris falls to Earth? Many times, it appears much like a meteor. Pictured here, as NASA describes it, is the "subsequent breakup and fragmentation of the European Space Agency's ‘Jules Verne’ Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) spacecraft [as] captured in dramatic fashion by more than 30 researchers aboard two NASA aircraft."