References for Greek and Latin
written by Susanne M Hoffmann
Shooting stars are not really stars and have nothing to do with them but in ancient times, the terms are frequently mixed. In scientific jargon they are called "meteors" and they are glowing hot air in the Earth's upper atmosphere. They are caused by tiny particles like grains of dust or pebbles from the solar system hitting the Earth's atmosphere. Because the Earth moves through space with a speed of 30 km/s, the speed of these particles is between 30 and 70 km/s when they fly through the higher atmosphere. At heights between 90 and 80 km above the ground, the air is dense enough that the friction by the particle causes it to ionize. The ionized air molecules immediately recombine and emit the energy as light.
Summarizing, the meteor is caused by tiny particles but tiny particles are not visible at a distance of 80 km. So, what we see as shooting star, in fact is the glowing air that the particle has just passed.