Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lyrid Meteor Shower, w/ Web-Cast, on Earth Day 45th Anniversary

A new NASA Science News ScienceCast video previews the Lyrid meteor shower:
Link >>>
(Image Source: NASA Science News)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

The 45th anniversary of Earth Day coincides with the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower, which peaks this evening (April 22) at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 23:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Of course, after nightfall, and particularly after local midnight, is the best time to view any meteor shower.

The Lyrids, which seem to stream from the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp, occurs each year when Earth's orbit of the Sun passes through the dusty remnants of Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). Under ideal conditions, this modest meteor shower could yield 10-to-20 meteors per hour.

Clear skies are always a must for meteor viewing, something not always available during the early portion of “April Showers Bring May Flowers.” And, it is always best to get away from city lights, for the chance to see the dimmer meteors.

As always, the best viewing for a meteor shower is between local midnight and local dawn, when the Earth is rotating into the meteor shower. Unlike other years when the bright Moon may interfere with viewing some of the dimmer meteors, this year the Moon is a slender waxing crescent, setting shortly after sunset. So Moon light will not pose a problem seeing meteors this year.

Telescopes and binoculars are of little use for finding meteors. Such optical devices restrict the field-of-view, thus that you could easily miss a lot of meteors, and the chance that you could observe a meteor with a telescope or binoculars is not very good. The best way to look for meteors is to lie down on the ground, or lean-back in a lawn chair, in an area with an unobstructed view of most of the sky until you see a meteor.

Although Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from the part of the sky near the star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp, meteors can appear in any part of the sky at any time. In many cases (but not all), the trails from Lyrid meteors will seem to point-back to Lyra the Harp.

Although the Lyrids are considered a modest meteor shower, on occasion an outburst could boost the hourly meteor viewing rate closer to 90-to-100 during the peak viewing time. This occurred in 1982, with an even greater outburst seen in 1803. Such outbursts are rare and unpredictable. They occur when the Earth travels through an unusually dense clump of debris from Comet Thatcher.

So, if weather conditions permit, grab a warm jacket and look for the Lyrids late tonight (April 22) and early tomorrow morning (April 23).

If weather conditions are not cooperative, some Lyrid meteors can be seen on an Internet web-cast, sponsored by the Slooh Community Observatory (Internet link to web-cast near end of this blog post). However, do realize that the Slooh camera will be pointing in just one direction. Unlike a person, who is able to scan the entire sky for meteors, a camera looking in just one direction, in all likelihood, will not have as high a meteor-per-hour count.

Internet Web-Cast of Lyrid Meteor Shower by Slooh Community Observatory ---
Wednesday Evening, 2015 April 22, Beginning at 8:00 p.m. EDT / April 23 at 0:00 UTC:
Link >>>

More on the Lyrid Meteor Shower ---
Link 1 >>>
Link 2 >>>
Link 3 >>>

More on the constellation Lyra the Harp: Link >>>

More on meteor showers: Link >>>

More on meteors: Link >>>

More on Earth Day ---
Link 1 >>>
Link 2 >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

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