Meteors

Perseid Meteor Shower
Credit: David Kingham

Meteors, sometimes called Shooting Stars, are not stars at all, but small rocks burning up as they enter our atmosphere.

Every day, around 100 tonnes of rocks and dust enter our atmosphere. Luckily, most of these objects are so small that they burn up completely before reaching the ground, and do not represent a danger.

However, some rocks are big enough that they do not get totally burnt up. These fall all the way down to the surface and are called Meteorites. Meteorites have a lot more metals in them than rocks on Earth, this makes them more dense - heavier than we expect based on the size of them.

Meteors are mainly small asteroids left over from when the Solar System formed, but some break off from comets, or have even found their way to Earth following large impacts on the Moon and Mars.

Although you can see a few meteors on any clear night, the best time to observe them is during a big Meteor Shower. These occur when the Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by a comet. During a good shower, you may see as many as 100 meteors in an hour, however, on a typical night you can expect to see around 6 meteors per hour.