|MadSci Network: Astronomy|
Hi Jay, If you do web searches for 'meteors' you'll find lots of information, particularly with all the recent interest in the Leonid meteor storm a few days ago. One good one which will help you get started is the Sky and Telescope magazine meteor page http://www.skypub.com/ sights/meteors/meteors.shtml As you know, 'shooting stars' are caused by tiny pieces of rock and dust burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. They start to burn up when the atmospheric pressure becomes great enough to start to slow them down and that can vary a bit depending upon the size of the grain. It's usually 50-75 miles high. Thus a particular shooting star will be visible for up to 100-200 miles around I would guess. It might be a good project for your students to try and estimate how far away you can be on the curved surface of the Earth before you can no longer see something 50 miles high.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Astronomy.