Stars and planets aren’t the only things floating around in space. At any moment there are bits of rocks floating around, too.
Some of these space rocks are as tiny as particles of dust, and some are as large as boulders! What does space dust have to do with shooting stars, you may wonder?
Well, a shooting star (or “falling star”) has nothing to do with stars and everything to do with these little bits of rock.
Though they may appear to have the same enchanting glow as the stars we see twinkling in the night sky, shooting stars are actually small pieces of rock or dust, called meteoroids, hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up.
The brief and beautiful trail of light we see as a meteoroid streaks through the sky is called a meteor. Meteors are what people commonly refer to as shooting stars.
So isn’t a burning rock falling through space dangerous? Not typically. Most meteoroids are only the size of a grain of sand and burn up before they ever reach the Earth. Very rarely, a part of a meteor may survive the journey through our atmosphere and make its way to Earth’s surface, at which time it becomes a meteorite.