"Shooting stars" or meteors are bits of material falling through Earth's
atmosphere; they are heated to incandescence by the friction of the air. The bright trails as they are
coming through the Earth's atmosphere are termed meteors, and these chunks as they are hurtling
through space are called meteoroids. Large pieces that do not vaporize completely and reach the
surface of the Earth are termed meteorites.
Scientists estimate that 1,000 tons to more than 10,000 tons of meteoritic material falls on the
Earth each day. However, most of this material is very tiny - in the form of micrometeoroids or
dust-like grains a few micrometers in size. (These particles are so tiny that the air resistance is
enough to slow them sufficiently that they do not burn up, but rather fall gently to Earth.)
Where do they come from? They probably come from within our own solar system, rather than
interstellar space. Their composition provides clues to their origins. They may share a common
origin with the asteroids. Some meteoritic material is similar to the Earth and Moon and some is
quite different. Some evidence indicates an origin from comets.
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