Lyrids meteor shower peak before dawn Wednesday

April 22nd, 2009 - 9:17 pm ICT by GD  

The Lyrids meteor shower may not be the best of its time, or the most remarkable, but when it peaks on Wednesday dawn it will sure be a sight to behold. Rich Talcott, senior editor of the Astronomy magazine said it is coming as a unique time. He said, “You’re right: The Lyrids aren’t the biggest one out there, but this year they have the advantage of occurring around the time of the new moon. That makes conditions among the best for a meteor shower. It’s probably the best conditions we’ll have for a meteor shower for several months.”

The Lyrids produce 10 to 20 meteors per hour. This is rather low when compared to the spectacular Perseids, which peaks in mid-August and has 80 meteors in an hour or the Quadrantid shower that peaks in early January and gives 40 to 100 meteors in an hour. Yet the Lyrids is interesting because it was the first meteor shower ever recorded as the Chinese had recorded it as early as 687 BC. In addition the Lyrids meteors are brighter and faster than most others at 108,000 miles per hour. Meteor showers occur when the Earth gathers enough dust left behind by comets and the particles burn up in the atmosphere. The Lyrids meteors come from the trail of dust particles left behind by the comet Thatcher, that was seen first by amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher in New York on April 5, 1861, seven days before the civil war began. It is a periodic comet, implying that it reaches the inner solar system regularly. With an orbit of 416 years, the next time it will be visible is 2276.

Another spectacular reason why you should get up early on Wednesday is, according to Carole Holmberg, planetarium director of the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, “Venus and the crescent moon will be particularly close in the east. It’s supposed to be a beautiful morning. The Lyrids are a bonus.”

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