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meteors falling to Earth

A meteor is what you see when a space rock falls to Earth. It is often known as a shooting star or falling star and can be a bright light in the night sky, though most are faint. If it hits the ground, it is then called a meteorite, and a large one sometimes leaves a hole in the ground called a crater.

A rock that has not yet hit the atmosphere is called a "meteoroid". Meteoroids may range in size from large pieces of rock to tiny dust particles floating in space that did not form planets. When the meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere they are usually going faster than the Earth's escape velocity of 13 km/sec or Mach 40. This makes them heat up and usually break apart. When the heat makes them glow, they are known as meteors.

Meteors are distinct from comets or asteroids, but some, especially those associated with meteor showers, are dust particles that came out of comets.

There are several types of meteorites including: stony, carbonaceous chondrites, and iron-nickel. Stony meteorites are named because they are largely made up of stone-like mineral material. Carbonaceous chondrites have a high carbon content. Iron-nickel meteorites are mostly iron often with significant nickel as well.

Meteors sometimes hurt people and property. The 2013 Russian meteor event did the most damage. Large meteorite strikes may have played a part in several of the mass extinctions, and so indirectly on the course of evolution. (see K/T extinction event; List of extinction events; Chicxulub crater)

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