Meteors are space rocks.
Small bits sometimes come to Earth.
They get hot and glow.
We call them shooting stars.
Some land on Earth and then we call them meteorites.
Flying around in space there are many rocks. The big ones are called asteroids. They bump into each other and break into smaller and smaller pieces. The smaller pieces are called meteoroids (say mee-tee-uh-roy-d). Asteroids and meteoroids orbit the sun like the planets do.
Some of the smaller pieces sometimes fall to Earth. As a rock comes close to Earth, it becomes a meteor. The meteor heats up and the air around it glows. When we see it, it looks like a streak of light in the sky. Most of them burn up. Lots of meteors crash into Earth but most of them are the size of a speck of dust.
If a meteor lands on Earth without burning up, it is called a meteorite (say mee-tee-aw-rite). Most are like dust or pebbles, some are big rocks and a few are very big.
Some facts about meteors
Millions of meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere every day. A meteor can be as small as a speck of dust. About 500 meteorites reach the Earth’s surface every year. Scientists study them and learn a lot about our solar system.
Have you ever heard of a shooting star, or falling star? Perhaps you have seen one: a quick flash of light streaking in the dark. Well, they aren’t really stars at all, they are meteors. When many meteors are seen in a short time in the same part of the sky, it is called a meteor shower.
Some meteorites are stone and some are iron.
The fastest meteoroids travel through space at about 42 kms per second.
Very, very rarely a really huge meteorite has hit the Earth and has made a big hole called a crater.
About 50,000 years ago a huge meteorite hit the ground in Arizona, USA. Today people visit the huge crater. NASA used the middle of the crater as a place where astronauts were trained before going into space. You can see the training buildings in the centre, which gives you an idea of the size of the crater.