Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Christian. Christian Wonders, “Does a shooting star really make your wish come true?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Christian!
We were taking a late walk around the Wonderopolis barnyard the other night when we overheard an interesting conversation between a couple of cows:
Cow 1: Hey Bessie! Did you see that? It's a shooting star!
Cow 2: Well, Buttercup, you know what that means. Make a wish!
Cow 1: I already did. I hope it comes true!
Cow 2: What did you wish for?
Cow 1: A bicycle!
Cow 2: A bicycle? You don't even know how to ride a bike!
Cow 1: Exactly! How am I supposed to learn to ride without a bike?
We wandered away a bit confused, thinking about cows riding bikes. We even forgot to make our own wish upon the shooting star.
Wishing upon stars — especially falling or shooting stars — is a common custom all over the world. But have you ever WONDERed why we do that? How did that tradition get started?
Of course, a falling or shooting star isn't really a star at all. Stars are bright, burning balls of gas. That bright orb you see in the sky? We call it the Sun, and it's actually a star.
Falling or shooting stars are actually what scientists call meteors. When bits of rock and dust floating in space (called meteoroids) enter Earth's atmosphere, they burn up from the heat caused by the friction of encountering Earth's atmosphere.
If a visible streak is left in the sky as meteoroids burn up, that's called a meteor. If pieces of these meteoroids actually hit the Earth, we call them meteorites. It's actually very rare for humans ever to encounter, let alone be hit or injured by, meteorites.
Although meteoroids constantly burn up in Earth's atmosphere, it's also relatively rare for them to be big enough to create a visible meteor. On a clear night, you could watch the sky for hours without being able to see a meteor with the naked eye.
With a telescope, though, you might be able to see a falling star every 10-15 minutes. Perhaps it's this rarity that leads people to believe that shooting stars have magical properties and might just lead to a wish being granted.
People have believed in the legend that wishing upon a shooting star makes the wish come true for a long time. Some historians believe the legend got its start in ancient Greece with an astronomer named Ptolemy.
Sometime in the second century, Ptolemy wrote about gods who he thought looked down upon Earth from their heavenly homes. He thought they possibly opened some sort of portal between the heavens and Earth that would allow stars to slip through and become visible as falling or shooting stars.
Why wish upon them, though? Well, if the gods are looking down long enough to let stars slip through from the heavens to Earth, then maybe they're paying a bit more attention to what's going on down here. Maybe even enough to grant a wish made at that time!
Not all people have agreed with Ptolemy through the ages. Some cultures believe shooting stars to be human souls, traveling between the heavens and Earth. Others believe they may be angels or demons moving back and forth between the realms.
So have you ever wished upon a shooting star? Did your wish come true? Do you think wishing upon a shooting star is just a silly superstition? Or could it really happen? Keep your eyes focused on the stars and maybe you'll find out one day!