For Kids: Facts About Shooting Stars!

Learn what shooting stars really are, what they are made of, where they come from, how to sight them and more!

When you look up at the sky on a dark night, you might see a shooting star. Is it really a star? Are the stars falling out of the sky? No. Don't worry. They aren't really stars.

There are many, many pieces of rock, metal and ice floating around in outer space. Some of the pieces are big, but most are as small as a grain of sand. Sometimes, one of the pieces floats close enough to the earth that the earth's pull, or "gravity," makes that piece drop toward the earth.

As the piece falls faster and faster toward the earth, it enters the "atmosphere" around the earth. The atmosphere has air made up of gases. One of those gases is oxygen. The piece is moving very fast and, with the oxygen, it "ignites" and begins to burn. Then we can see it streaking across the sky, because it is on fire.

We call that burning piece a "meteor." Usually, the meteor burns up before it hits the ground or water on the earth. If it doesn't burn up, and it hits the earth, it is called a "meteorite."

Depending upon how big the meteorite is, it can explode as it hits the ground. When it hits, it makes a dent. That dent in the ground is called a "crater." It looks kind of like a bowl in the dirt. The crater is big if the meteorite is big, and small if the meteorite is small.

Sometimes, the earth passes through a bunch of floating pieces, and we have a "meteor shower." Then, you can see many meteors, often one right after another. There may be hundreds, or even thousands, in one night! For sighting meteors, it is best to be away from city or town lights, in a dark area.

So, when you look up at the sky at night, and see a shooting star, don't worry! Some people say if you make a wish when you see one, it will come true. Why don't you try it and see?


Happy Wishes!

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