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Meteor Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Meteors are fascinating objects in space! In this lesson, learn all about what causes a meteor, how they can be viewed, and how they have impacted Earth.

What Is a Meteor?

Have you have ever looked up to the night sky and seen a star move across the sky? We know of these as shooting stars, but the real term for a shooting star is meteor. A meteor is any piece of comet, meteoroid, or asteroid that travels into Earth's atmosphere.

Millions of these objects are zipping around in space all the time, but occasionally they enter Earth's atmosphere. A lot of heat is created when one of these objects comes into Earth's atmosphere, causing it to glow. This is what gives the meteor the appearance of a shooting star.

When a piece of a comet, meteoroid, or asteroid heats up in the atmosphere, it looks like a shooting star.
Meteorite falling star

Meteor Showers

On any clear night, it is possible to see a few shooting stars. However, sometimes Earth travels through the tail of a comet or through an area where there is a high level of space debris. (Space debris is small pieces of rocks from comets or asteroids.) When this happens, you can view a meteor shower. This is an amazing sight! You can see hundreds of shooting stars, and it almost looks like natural fireworks!

Major meteor showers happen about forty times a year. There are many more small meteor showers, but finding a major shower will help you be more likely to view the shower. If you want to see a meteor shower, find a calendar online and keep your fingers crossed that the sky will be clear on the night of the shower you want to view!

This small rock made of iron is an example of space debris.
space debris made of iron

Fireballs

Some meteors get the honor of being called fireballs. In order to win this title, a meteor has to be much larger than normal. Scientists call a meteor a fireball when it is as bright as the planet Venus. Sometimes, fireballs make a booming or cracking sound when they enter the atmosphere, and this sound may be heard from Earth. However, fireballs are very rare, and people often don't see them because they can occur during the day or over areas of Earth that are not populated, such as oceans.

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