Finally a meteor shower that isn't going to be outshone by the big beautiful Moon, hooray! The Lyrids, which make their annual debut from around April 16th to the 25th, are due to peak tomorrow morning before dawn in a moonless sky – optimal for viewing fast moving fireballs!
This shower is known for a historical handful of uncommon surges that brought the average shooting stars from 15-20 per hour to upwards of one hundred. Although these bursts can be unpredictable, the allure of catching such a sky show is hard to resist for hardcore stargazers – especially since there's a meteor shower lull for the first three months of the year, so this is a great reason to step outside to stretch your peepers.
The Lyrids get their name from where the radiant for this shower lies – near the superstar Vega in the constellation of Lyra the Harp, which rises in the northeast around 10 p.m. in the month of April. Fun Fact: Vega is the fourth brightest star in the sky, and forms one vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism.
Photo of star Vega by Stephen Rahn
As for the source of the shower power, that comes from the Comet Thatcher. Scientists actually don't have any photos of this comet because its orbit around the Sun is roughly 415 years, so it isn't expected to return for its proper photoshoot for another 256 years in 2276. The fallout debris of this comet besiege the Earth's upper atmosphere at 110,000 miles/177,000 kilometers per hour, which is pretty darn fast, ya dig?
The Lyrids are one of the OGs in the history books, dating back approximately 2,700 years. It's said that the ancient Chinese observed its meteors "falling like rain" in the sky around 687 B.C. Fun Fact: The period of time in China from about 771 B.C. to 476 B.C. is referred to as the Spring and Autumn Period, which is associated with the celebrated Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius.
And with that, I’ll leave you with one of the tremendous gems Confucius dropped on the world: Stars are holes in the sky from which the light of the infinite shines.
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