What is a shooting star?

Shooting stars look like stars that quickly shoot across the sky, but they are not stars. A shooting star is really a small piece of rock or dust that hits Earth's atmosphere from space. It moves so fast that it heats up and glows as it moves through the atmosphere. Shooting stars are actually what astronomers call meteors. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere before they reach the ground. However, once in a while a meteor is large enough than some of it survives and reaches Earth's surface. Then it is called a meteorite.


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Learn about IRAS, the first infrared telescope launched into Earth's orbit!