Coming Celestial Showpiece: Meteor Shower
16 April 2014

This image shows a rich meteor shower that was documented in 1995.
Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau and P. Jenniskens

Meteor showers are among the most favorite and most exciting astronomical phenomena. They occur when Earth passes through a stream of space debris, called meteoroids, tiny dust particles shed by comets or minor planets, which penetrate our atmosphere, at enormous speeds, and glow as meteors or shooting stars. Strong meteor showers are known as meteor storms or outbursts.

As the meteoroids travel in space in parallel paths, the meteors of the shower appear to radiate from a single characteristic point on the sky, called the radiant.

Many meteor showers occur every year, but a few of them are bright and rich. Meteor showers are usually named after the constellation that contains the shower’s radiant. Examples are the Leonids, whose radiant lies in Leo, the zodiacal constellation, and the Lyrids, whose radiant is in the constellation Lyra, The Harp. Typically, a meteor shower lasts several days, or a few weeks, reaching a brief peak of activity, which lasts several hours.

The Lyrids shower occurs between 16 April and 25 April, when Earth passes through the stream of debris, expelled by Comet Thatcher, which orbits the Sun every 415 years. Its meteors are bright, and some of them leave long-lasting trails. The Lyrids’ peak is often around 22 April, and features 10-20 meteor per hour, but sometimes it gets more intense.

This year, the peak of the Lyrids is expected to be during the night of 22 April and the morning of 23 April. To watch the Lyrids, it is recommended to observe from a dark place, away from glaring city lights. You should lie on a reclining chair, and gaze upward. The best time for observation is from midnight to sunrise. Although the Moon will be near last quarter, during the hours of the Lyrids’ peak, it will affect only the visibility of the fainter Lyrids.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist
News Center

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