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Fast Fact: Shooting Stars

Have you ever made a wish upon a shooting star? These “stars” that streak across the sky are actually meteors and meteorites. They are pieces of rock or metal that are falling through the atmosphere that surrounds Earth. Most of these pieces of rock and metal have fallen off of asteroids or comets. When a piece survives its fall and hits Earth’s surface, it is called a meteorite. Most do not survive the fall and melt from heat as they fall. These are called meteors.

A shooting star streaking across the star-filled sky.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Sometimes, Earth encounters a lot of meteoroids — the space rocks — in a short time span. This is called a meteor shower. These “showers” occur because Earth’s orbit encounters the orbit of a comet that is surrounded by a lot of debris. Some of the best meteor showers for viewing shooting stars are the Perseids, which is in August; the Orionids in October; the Geminids in December; and the Lyrids in April. The best way to see a meteor shower is to go far from city lights to a dark place. Give yourself some time to let your eyes adjust to the dark, then look up watch for meteors to streak across the night sky.


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