What Is a Shooting Star?
Shooting stars are bits of space matter called meteors. Billions of meteors, most of them no bigger than grains of sand, speed through space. If smaller than a piece of sand, astronomers call them interplanetary dust. If they’re larger than a boulder, astronomers call them asteroids.
When a meteor enters the earth’s atmosphere, it zips through the air so incredibly fast that it gets very hot and then turns to gas. The long trail of glowing gas is the shooting “star” we see in the night sky.
A meteor usually burns up long before it comes anywhere near the ground. A few falls to earth, though; when they do, they are called meteorites.
Almost any clear night you can see at least one meteor flashing by. At certain times of the year, the Earth passes through a comet trail. The number of shooting stars then increases to perhaps 100 per hour.