Shooting Star Luck and Shooting Star Superstitions
By Charles L Harmon.
It is a popular superstition to make a wish upon seeing a shooting star. Seems no one knows exactly when this started but looking over many references it appears that shooting stars have meant both bad luck and good luck.
Nowadays you don’t hear any bad luck associated with a shooting star, but in ancient times and a few centuries ago that was the case.
A Shooting Star
Lets take a rather scientific look at what a shooting star is and a little about them and shooting star superstitions. They are meteors or meteoroids. A meteoroid is a sand- to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar System.
The visible path of a meteoroid that enters Earth’s (or another body’s) atmosphere is called a meteor, or colloquially a shooting star or falling star. If a meteoroid reaches the ground and survives impact, then it is called a meteorite. Many meteors appearing seconds or minutes apart are called a meteor shower.
Very small meteoroids are known as micrometeoroids and also interplanetary dust. The root word meteor comes from the Greek meteo¯ros, meaning “high in the air”.
Most meteoroids burn up when they enter the atmosphere. The left-over debris is called meteoric dust or just meteor dust. Meteor dust particles can persist in the atmosphere for up to several months.
These particles might affect climate, both by scattering electromagnetic radiation and by catalyzing chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere.
This astronaut photograph, taken from the International Space Station while over China (approximately 400 kilometres to the north-west of Beijing), provides the unusual perspective of looking down on a meteor(or shooting star) as it passes through the atmosphere. Green and yellow airglow appears in thin layers above the limb of the Earth, extending from image left to the upper right.
Atoms and molecules above 50 kilometers in the atmosphere are excited by sunlight during the day, and then release this energy at night, producing primarily green light that is observable from orbit. Part of a space station solar panel is visible at image upper right; behind the panel, a bright region indicates the Sun low on the horizon.
Date: 13 August 2011
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
A meteor is the visible path of a meteoroid that has entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Meteors typically occur in the mesosphere, and most range in altitude from 75 km to 100 km. Millions of meteors occur in the Earth’s atmosphere every day. Most meteoroids that cause meteors are about the size of a pebble.
The velocities of meteors result from the movement of the Earth around the Sun with about 30 kilometers/second the orbital speeds of meteoroids, and the gravitational attraction of the Earth.
Meteoroids travel around the Sun in a variety of orbits and at various velocities. The fastest ones move at about 26 miles per second (42 kilometers per second) through space in the vicinity of Earth’s orbit. The Earth travels at about 18 miles per second (29 kilometers per second).
Thus, when meteoroids meet the Earth’s atmosphere head-on (which would only occur if the meteors were in a retrograde orbit), the combined speed may reach about 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second). Meteoroids moving through the earth’s orbital space average about 20 km/sec.
Shooting Star Superstitions
Not only shooting stars, but stars (in the sky) in general have had lots of meanings attached to them since antiquity. Some people may still think of a falling or a shooting star as bad luck or death.
Still others believe that if you want money then if you repeat the word “money” three times as the star is falling your wish will be granted. That’s a typical version of “when you wish upon a star, your dreams will come true.”
Still others consider different things for their wishes – all must be made as the shooting star is falling otherwise nothing will come of your wishes. Apparently there is no restrictions what one wishes or if there is no one mentions it in the research I did.
Some people think a shooting star means someone in the family will get married soon. Others think or hear that each time a shooting star streaks through the sky another soul is gone to heaven. Another version of what a shooting star signifies is that the shooting star guides a new soul from heaven to earth in the same path in which a soul that has just departed from earth finds its way back to heaven.
Since shooting stars are generally small specks of particles or fragments of celestial bodies. Most of the shooting stars are actually particles too small to see. But we can see their light as the friction of the air lights them up briefly as most of them burn up in the upper atmosphere.
There are exceptions, however, and once in a while larger rocks or even larger bolder size rocks do enter the earth atmosphere and burn up, some few actually making it all the way down to the ground.
Even though meteors and meteorites have been falling on earth for eons it was not generally believed that meteors fell to earth until the beginning of the 1700s even though such falls have been recorded from ancient times. Back in the days before the advent of science meteorites were worshiped and thought of as supernatural.
Here’s how people of the nineteenth and twentieth century thought about shooting stars and superstitious ideas related to them according to the Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions, pub. 2005:
- 1839 – I saw a star that was falling, I wish’d the wish of my soul
- 1851 – Whatever you think of when you see a shooting star, you are sure to have.
- 1887 – You may .. wish when you see a falling star, and if you can succeed in framing it before it disappears your wish will be granted.
- 1853 – Wish quickly while the star falls
- 1957 – See a shooting star, have a wish
In the Encyclopedia of Superstitions 1949, by Edwin and Mona Radford, there are also some superstitions related to shooting stars:
- You must express a wish when a star shoots over you or you will be unlucky all the year. —Wales
- Shooting stars are souls coming from Heaven to animate new-born children. —Yorks
Coincidental with this Yorkshire belief of souls coming from Heaven to animate new-born children is a legend of Irish saints in which the mother of one dreams that a spark has fallen into her mouth from a star which she recognizes as the soul of her unborn child come to her; and that of Mandans, of North America, who hold that when a woman is brought to bed for childbirth, a star falls from Heaven, and entering her, is born as a child.
- A shooting star to the Maoris of New Zealand is a soul leaving the body of a man or woman and going to the nether world. This same belief was held for many years in Belgium and parts of France.
- The Estonians and some Mohammedans view shooting stars as evil spirits hurled from the celestial vaults.
- The Tarahumares of Mexico view a shooting star as a dead sorcerer coming to harm a man who had harmed him in life; while the Bororos of Central Brazil think him to be a medicine man announcing that he wanted meat on which someone in the tribe would die.
The Lolos, a tribe of Chinese, hold that for every person on earth there is a corresponding star in the sky. Therefore when a man was ill they sacrificed wine to his star. When the man died, they dug a hole in the chamber of death and prayed that the dead man’s star, which must fall or shoot on his death, might descend and be buried in the hole. Otherwise in its fall the star might injure someone on earth.
Similarly in Brittany, in Transylvania, Bohemia, the Abruzzi, the Romagna, and in Oesel, it is held that each man has each star in the sky, which falls or shoots to earth on his death.
It is interesting to note that the last three instances mentioned above are speaking of a man. I wonder if it also includes women or if they are excluded somehow; whereas the Maoris of New Zealand indicate men and woman in their beliefs.
Star songs and Nursery Rhymes
There have been many movies and songs made related to shooting stars. Here is one from the Disney movie Pinocchio – When You Wish Upon A Star.
The nursery rhyme “Starlight star bright” are believed to be of late 1800s American origin. The words suggest a fantasy that you can wish upon a star. This “Starlight star bright” poem has surely been used on many occasions as a bedtime story for children, maybe even as they look out the window waiting to see “Starlight star bright” – the very first starlight of the night!
The superstition of hoping for wishes granted when seeing a shooting or falling star probably dates back to the ancient world. Wishing on the first star seen may also predate this Star Light, Star Bright rhyme, which first began to be recorded in the late 19th century America.
The song and tradition seem to have reached Britain by the early twentieth century and have since then spread around the world.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Traditional, Written By: Jane Taylor
References to “Star light, Star Bright” in Popular Culture
- It is used in Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio (1940) and then in Walt Disney World‘s and Disneyland Paris‘s Wishes firework shows.
- It is the name of a 1979 crime novel by Stanley Ellin.
- It forms some of the lyrics of Madonna’s song, “Lucky Star” (1983).
- It forms some of the lyrics of Kimbra‘s song, “Settle Down”.
- It forms the name and some of the lyrics of Syl Johnson’s song, “Star Bright, Star Lite” (1975).
- This nursery rhyme appears in the movie 8 mm (1999)
- The Metallica song, “King Nothing” (1999), features the line “I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight”.
- It is cited in Star Trek: The Original Series: “The Conscience of the King” (at the 19 minute, 5 seconds mark).
- In the movie The Last Starfighter (1984), the movie begins in a trailer park named “StarLight StarBright”.
Stars and Shooting Stars Overhead?
Here where I live in Southern California, away from any really big cities like Los Angeles or San Diego, actually about halfway between them in the Inland Empire, I can see what look like moving stars in the nighttime sky, especially on dark nights when the moon is not bright or even better when it is not out or has set.
It also helps a lot that there are no street lights to ruin the view. I would venture to wish upon them, the moving stars, but unfortunately they are not stars. They are satellites and maybe the space station. If I stare at the sky on such nights I can usually see one or two satellites passing high overhead within a half hour or less.
Sometimes I can see maybe a half dozen within an hour or so; some being fairly bright while the rest being dim or barely visible.
However, I have seen shooting stars too, but generally they are really late at nite and are relatively rare compared to satellites which are passing overhead everyday. Most of the time I have seen a falling star it happens so fast I don’t have time to make a wish, although I have tried.
But I have been able to make a wish upon a falling star a few times over the years. Now, whether my wish has come true or not …well that’s not for me to say. However, it’s your turn, so the next time you see a shooting star you have to be quick – make a wish and maybe, just maybe your wish will come true.
Copyright © WishGoodLuck.com
Questions about Shooting Stars
umm so what does it mean if……..?
you see a shooting star
is it good luck?
a sign of death?
is my wish gonna come true?
tell me plz
Suzi Q answers:
What century are you living in? Seriously. Im sure about 20 other people have informed you that what you call “shooting stars” are not stars at all. They are meteors. The earth is inundated with meteoric dust. Space debris is usually invisible, but when a meteor is slightly larger, it burns in the atmosphere, making a cool and very short lived sparkle. If you want to think of meteors as signs of something, then by all means go ahead. Since its just dust, it would be alot easier to make a wish on the dust bunnies that hide in your home. Oh, and comets are not signs of impending doom or wars or diseases. Of course, if youd like to believe that, then go right ahead.
trying to find a classic kids sci fi movie?
Im trying to find a classic movie I watch when i was little, its a kids / sci fi movie happen on earth. ( America )
Its about a boy who into alien read comic book and in the begin of the movie he see a shooting star. he goes of to find it and with luck he finds a space ship which he believe is a alien but its a alien battle suit. then there a another try of alien then coming to earth and he trying to take the suit so they can use it aswell. i remember in the end the good alien give the medal to the boy, plus he parent come and see the alien and they could believe him. that all i can remember about the movie. i think its was around 1997 to 2005 not full sure but can anyone help me find this movie that would be great.
Suzi Q answers:
“Star Kid” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120478/
Shy seventh-grader Spencer Griffith’s life changes when a meteor falls into a local junkyard and he finds a Cybersuit – an exoskeleton with AI from another galaxy…
Questions powered by Yahoo! Answers
Shooting Star Q&A2