Lyrids Meteor Shower 2013

The best time to see the Lyrid meteor shower is very early on Monday morning after the moon has set, just before dawn. At its peak exepect 10-20 meteors per hour. They will originate in the sky near Vega in the constellation Lyra. The above picture shows the peak time around 3:30 AM monday April 21. Created with Stellarium

 

My fellow sky viewers,

I am a night owl by nature, so I tend to be up in the late hours of the morning. Just seems natural to develop a tendancy to watch meteor showers.. 🙂 The next one is tonight April 21, 2013. It is not one of the best (my personal favorite is Geminids in December) but the Lyrids Meteor Shower is one not to miss. While it might not be spectacular with only 10-20 per hour at its peak, but a chance to see meteors.. I just cant pass it up.

While you might see a few meteors in the early evening, say after 11 pm when Vega and the Lyrid radiant first come up in the easters sky, viewing will be difficult because the moons light will drown out most of them. The waxing gibbous moon will set in the early hours before dawn however, leaving a good 1-2 hour viewing window with dark skies.

The good news is that is the same time the Lyrid meteor radiant will be at the best viewing angle the point in the sky from which the shower members appear to radiate, is highest.

If you’re game for a look, head out Monday morning April 22 from about 3:30 to 5 a.m. toting a proper cup of tea or coffee. Make sure you’re bundled up for the weather and get cozy in a reclining lawn chair under a blanket or sleeping bag. Some meteor watchers prefer just watching spread-eagled on the ground. Face south or east and enjoy the grand vista of the summer stars and the fun surprise of an occasional meteor.

A bit of Comet Thatcher burning up in the atmosphere as a meteor shot from the window of the International Space Station over the Caribbean Sea April 21, 2012. Credit: NASA

While the late winter and spring constellations grace the evening sky, if you’re out before dawn, the Earth will have rotated those has-beens off to western horizonland. In the east and south, behold Scorpius, Sagittarius and the Summer Triangle.

Lyrids are the dusty, pebbly debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, discovered by American amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher in 1861. Every spring for at least the past 2,700 years, Earth has passed through the trail, thrilling countless sky watchers with the sight of flaming dust and grit.

Heated by their passage near the sun, comets shed gas, ice, dust particles and rocks. If the comet’s orbit intersects Earth’s some of material strikes our atmosphere and we see a meteor. Credit: National Science Foundation

Lyrid meteors strike the upper atmosphere 60 miles overhead at better than 107,000 mph (173,000 km/sec) and burn up in eye-catching flashes. Typical meteoroids – the name given to meteors before they hit the atmosphere – range in size from grains of sand to walnuts. The bigger they are, the brighter.

While Lyrid numbers are modest, the shower occasionally surprises as it did in 687 B.C. when the Chinese reported “stars fell like rain.” More recently in 1982, a brief burst of 90 meteors per hour was observed.

So you never know. The only way to find out what the Lyrids will be up to in 2013 is to be there.

How to view the Lyrid meteor shower:

Timing:  The best time to view the Lyrids will be late tonight (Sunday) in the short time after the moon has set and before the sun rises.  You can calculate local moonset here.

Location: Since the moon’s light will be especially strong this year, it is important to get away from city lights and find clear skies.  Dark Sky Finder is a website that shows light pollution in and around North American cities. Clear Sky Chart is a 48-hour astronomer’s forecast that can predict whether the sky will be clear and dark at a certain place.

Where to look: NASA scientists suggest not looking directly at Lyra, but to lie comfortably back and gaze at all parts of the sky.  Observers should watch for persistent strains, tails of ionized gas that will glow for a few seconds after about one in four Lyrid meteor has passed.

Patience: The Lyrid meteor shower is not considered a major shower, so observers should not get their hopes up too high.  Ten to 20 meteors per hour can mean three to six minutes between meteors

1 comment to Lyrids Meteor Shower 2013

  • admin

    While I did see a handfull of shooting stars.. I would call tonights display more a meteor sprinkle than a shower. Some were fairly bright though. I hope you enjoyed the show. The next viewing will be Eta Aquarids during the nights of May 4/5. The moon will be a early morning crescent.

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