Meteors, or shooting stars, are tiny lumps of rock burning up as they reach the Earth’s atmosphere.
Little lumps of rock in space are called meteoroids.
They become meteors, or shooting stars, when they reach the Earth’s atmosphere.
They are moving so fast that friction with the air causes them to heat up and glow brightly.
Most of them burn away in less than a second so all you see is a streak of light in the night sky.
Pieces of rock that survive the journey and hit the ground are called meteorites.
Meteorites have a high iron content so can be found using a strong magnet.
Meteor showers are caused by the earths atmosphere passing through the tail of an ancient comet where there will be lots of bits of rock, dirt and debris.
As each bit of dirt burns up in the atmosphere it causes a streak of light.
If you are lucky you may see many shooting stars a minute.
For example the Quadrantids in January can produce over 100 meteors per hour, although the peak of this shower tends to last only a few hours.
You need, of course, to be lucky with light and weather. (No moon and no clouds!)
- For more information on when you might see a meteor shower visit the EarthSky’s website
- When and where to look?