The Lyrids Meteor Shower: April 22, 23

Lyrids meteor shower

The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.

It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving dark skies for the what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

On the evening of April 5, 1861, amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher was scanning the skies above his home in New York when he stumbled across an unusual object in the constellation of Draco, “the dragon.” Thatcher described it as a “tailless nebulosity” roughly two to three times the apparent diameter of Jupiter and glowing at around magnitude 7.5 — too dim to be perceived with the unaided eye, though readily visible with good binoculars.

This object was a comet, which slowly brightened over the next three weeks as it approached both the sun and Earth. On April 28, 1861, the comet became dimly visible to the naked eye and was independently discovered by Carl Wilhelm Baeker from Nauen, Germany.

There is no chance that anyone living today will see this comet when it returns to the inner solar system; its next return is not expected until the year 2276. However, the dusty material left behind by this cosmic litterbug along its orbit produces an annual display of meteors in late April. However, the dusty material left behind by this cosmic trail produces an annual display of meteors in late April. Late tonight (April 21) into early Saturday morning (April 22) will provide us with the best opportunity to watch for these “shooting stars.”

Because the meteors appear to dart from a spot in the sky not far from the brilliant blue star Vega, in the constellation of Lyra, “the lyre,” they are known today as the Lyrids.

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