A Meteor is a fractured piece of an asteroid or comet which orbits the sun. Upon entering the Earth's atmosphere a Meteor burns creating the effect of a shooting star better known as Meteoroids which reach the Earth's surface. Sometimes these Meteoroids burn out into dust particles as they hit the atmosphere. The friction caused by air particles creates extreme temperatures of 1,648 degrees celsius, this intense heat vaporises most Meteors causing the glow leaving trails in the skies seen from the ground. Sometimes they don’t disintegrate, falling to the Earth's surface, and becoming known as Meteorites.
Large pieces of Meteors break from their asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, weighing anything up to 60 tons and reaching speeds of 30,000 MPH. These Meteors are made up of minerals rich in silicon and oxygen, although consist mainly of iron and nickel. Scientists believe 1,000 to 10,000 tons or more (some speculate this is in the region of 44 tons) of Meteor material falls on Earth every day, mostly dust particles according to Nasa who confirm they pose no threat to Earth or it’s atmosphere.
Halley's Comet is one of the most anticipated sightings by Meteor fans, although you'll have to wait a few decades for the next display. Halley last entered the inner Solar System in early 1986 but will orbit closer to the sun on the 28th July 2061, taking around 76 years to make a complete revolution around the Sun. There's several Meteor showers each year with the next coming up soon. The Leonid Meteor shower is best seen on November the 17th and 18th, so make sure to add these dates to your diaries. These can travel approximately 41 miles per second but can only be seen on a clear night with a persistent long trail. The impact from a Meteorite of 164 feet in diameter caused a crater 1 kilometre wide in Arizona 50,000 years ago; now known as the Barringer Meteorite crater.
Sixty-five million years ago an object, possibly a comet a few times larger than the one landed on by the Philae probe, struck the Mexican coast triggering a global winter that wiped out the dinosaurs. In 1908, a smaller Meteor hit a remote part of Siberia devastating hundreds of square miles of forest. Over 100 scientists including Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, called for the creation of a global warning system to alert us if a threatening Asteroid or Meteor is in direct alignment for another collision with Earth.
The probability is remote however one day there will be another collision. There has never been a strike large enough to wipe out all life on Earth for at least three billion years, protocall has named such an event the “Extinction Level Event”. But a dinosaur-killer would certainly be the end of civilisation as we know it.