Most children are familiar with the superstition that a wish made on a shooting star will come true. While no one knows exactly where or when the tradition of wishing on a shooting star arose, it is undoubtedly linked to the beauty and relative rarity of shooting stars and humanity's eternal fascination with the heavens. Stars have been associated since ancient times with divine powers, and even today, some people associate shooting stars with angels, so wishing on a star may be akin to offering a prayer.
Shooting stars are actually not stars at all, but meteors. A meteor is the glowing trail that appears in the sky when a meteoroid, a piece of debris in space, enters the Earth's atmosphere. Most meteoroids that come near to the Earth burn up before they reach the planet's surface, so shooting stars are often all people see of a meteoroid. Meteors appear to the human eye as glowing lights similar in size and color to stars, so to the imaginative or the uninformed, thinking of them as falling or shooting stars is quite natural.
Shooting stars may be considered lucky and ideal for wishing because they are relatively rare to see, especially in modern cities with significant light pollution, and because they come and go so quickly. Wishing on shooting stars is actually somewhat of a challenge, since they disappear almost as soon as one sees them. Therefore, it's difficult to disprove the claim that wishes made on shooting stars come true.
A well-known American nursery rhyme, "Star Light, Star Bright," makes reference to the tradition of wishing on stars, but the star in the poem is the "first star I see tonight" rather than a shooting star. "Star Light, Star Bright" is believed to date from the late 19th century, and while it is unknown whether or not the practice of wishing on stars predates the poem, it seems likely that people have been wishing on those breathtaking, mysterious heavenly bodies since well before recorded history.