Do Shooting Stars Have the Power to Fulfill Wishes?
A shooting star
Strange to tell, the answer is actually Yes! There is a form of radio communication that actually uses shooting stars to transmit radio waves and so, in theory, you could "wish upon a star" and your wishes could come true as a result!
The technique is called "meteor burst communication" and it relies on the fact that meteors are entering the earth's upper atmospehere virtually all the time. Nearly all of them burn up within a few seconds, due to their small size, and it is this burning that we see as a "shooting star". However, there are many more such events that we do not see, due to the small size of the particles involved.
When a meteor burns, it changes the characteristics of the thin air that causes the burn. This is called "ionization", which is technically the removal of electrons from atoms.
The trail of ionized particles can extend for a considerable distance, albeit for a short time, and it is this trail that allows radio waves sent from the Earth's surface to be bounced back rather than disappearing into space. Each meteor can therefore act as a tiny and temporary communications satellite.
Experience has shown that the particles that produce the best ionized trails are between a thousandth and a hundredth of a gram in weight. Smaller particles are two weak to produce a decent trail and larger ones are too rare to be relied upon.
The main advantage of using meteor bursts is that the receiver cannot trace back the path that the communication has taken, because of the random nature of the strength and direction of the agent that has bounced the signal back towards the surface, plus the fact that it disappears within a few seconds. This therefore makes meteor burst communication of great interest to military communicators. Also, even if every communications satellite were to be blasted out of the sky in some future "star wars" battle, the meteors would still keep coming.
The disdavantage is, however, that very randomness. Modern communications, such as those that keep the Internet going, rely on the constant availability of channels to keep the data packets flowing. A meteor burst is, by definition, "bursty", in that a data packet might have to wait a few seconds for the next meteor to come along and produce a suitable ionizied trail. Due to the nature of packet switching, by which messages are broken into short segments and re-assembled at the receiver's end, a delay to a packet of even a few seconds could be of great significance.
So if you are relying upon a star to get your message across, keep wishing that the meteors do their stuff!
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