Thank you, Mother Earth, for traveling through clouds of particles left by comets. Because of this, we’ll be able to enjoy the Lyrids meteor shower on April 22nd. Go to bed on the 21st and set the alarm for 4:14 a.m., two hours before sunrise, which will be the best time for viewing.
The originating point, or radiant, of a meteor shower is said to lie within the constellation, which would be Lyra, the harp in this case, with the bright star Vega. The associate comet would be Thatcher. But SpaceWeather disagrees:
Lyrids have nothing to do with Vega. The true source of the shower is Comet Thatcher. Every year in April, Earth plows through Thatcher’s dusty tail. Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 110,000 mph and disintegrate as streaks of light.
Best viewing time: predawn.
Point of origin: spread a blanket or arrange your reclining chair to look east.
Number of “shooting stars” per hour: 10 to 20 meteors per hour
Fun facts: If a meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere and reaches the Earth’s surface without vaporizing, it’s called a meteorite.
Everyday, dozens of small meteorites fall to the Earth. The largest meteorite ever found in the United States weighed 15 tons and was found in 1902 in Willamette, Oregon.
Back in 1954, a meteorite crashed through the roof of a home in Sylacauga, Alabama and hit a napping Ann Elizabeth Hodges. She woke up bruised and donated the rock to the Alabama Museum of Natural History. (Almanac.com)
D.C. Agle writes on JPL.NASA.gov that “a meteor shower is the entertaining end game of a comet’s passage into the inner solar system. Each time one of these big blobs of ice and dust ventures into the relatively toasty confines of the inner solar system, the sun’s rays cook off part of its frozen surface, releasing particles of dust. Each swing through the inner solar system by a comet can leave trillions of small particles in its wake. If Earth’s orbit intersects with this trail of debris, the result is a meteor shower.”