Get ready for yet another stunning meteor show starting April 16 through April 25. Lyrids meteor shower, an annual meteor shower will dazzle the skywatchers and onlookers with its stunning meteor shower this entire week. Lyrids Meteor shower is one of the oldest known shower ever recorded in the history. It dates back to some 2,700 years ago in 687 BC when it was first observed and documented.
According to its origin, Lyrid meteors are believed to be leftovers debris that escaped the comet G1 Thatcher that was first observed on April 5, 1861, over New York by astronomer A.E. Thatcher who named it as ‘G1 Thatcher’. But it was only in 1867 when astronomer Gottfried Galle proposed a link between Lyrids meteors and comet G1 Thatcher and later went on to prove it as well.
Every year between April 14 to 30, Earth passes through constellation Lyra was the particles of the Lyrids are orbiting. When Earth passes through it, the meteors create a stunning shower. On the other hand, the Lyrids particles lie near Vega which is its emerging point when seen in the sky. Vega belongs to the group of brightest stars in the cosmos which is highly luminous and visible even in the light-polluted areas when the stars aren’t visible.
Lyrids, it is one of the fast and bright meteors shower peaking at 18 meteors per hour and it can rack up to 100 during its span. The shower is luminant and bright and leaves a trail of light behind it for few seconds. According to the NASA, the number of meteor shower can fluctuate depending on various factors, however, it can go up to 20 meteors per hour in a moonless and dark night. The Lyrids meteor shower that took place in 1803 in Virginia, 1922 in Greece, 1945 in Japan and finally 1982 in the U.S. recorded the outbursts or heavy shower of meteors. Historically, heavy showers have been recorded every 60 years which means, the next outburst can be expected around in 2042.
When and how to watch Lyrids meteor showers? The shower will commence on April 16 through April 25, however, it will peak between April 22 and April 23. If you want to watch it, look for its post moonrise towards dawn especially during the midnight when it will be clearly visible in the Northern hemisphere and some parts of mid-southern latitude near the equator. The shooting stars will max on April 22 between 1.30am EST and dawn. To look for it, point towards the East towards the Lyra constellation at dusk while it will be visiting at halfway up the eastern sky by moon-set where it will be visible. But if you have trouble locating and fixating on Lyra, look for Vega which is the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere towards the east.
The shooting stars phenomenon occurs when the Earth is traveling through debris and dust particles spread across the solar system. It is when the dust particles collide and burn out when in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere will create stunning showers. Once a while, a meteor will burn up glowing at high brightest which is called as fireball, although it happens rarely, it is one of the things that skywatchers really look forward to watching. The Lyrid meteor shower is created due to the leftover of comet G1 Thatcher which orbits around the sun ever 415.5 years in its extremely long and elliptic orbit. It was last observed in the solar system in 1861 and will return only in 2276.
As per Wiki, the April Lyrids (LYR, IAU shower number 6 ) are a meteor shower lasting from April 16 to April 26 each year. The radiant of the meteor shower is located in the constellation Lyra, near this constellation’s brightest star, Alpha Lyrae (proper name Vega). Their peak is typically around April 22 each year.
The source of the meteor shower is particles of dust shed by the long-period Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The April Lyrids are the strongest annual shower of meteors from debris of a long-period comet, mainly because as far as other intermediate long-period comets go (200–10,000 years), this one has a relatively short orbital period of about 415 years. The Lyrids have been observed for the past 2,600 years.
The shower usually peaks on around April 22 and the morning of April 23. Counts typically range from 5 to 20 meteors per hour, averaging around 10. As a result of light pollution, observers in rural areas will see more than observers in a city. Nights without a moon in the sky will reveal the most meteors. April Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2. However, some meteors can be brighter, known as “Lyrid fireballs”, cast shadows for a split second and leave behind smokey debris trails that last minutes.
Occasionally, the shower intensifies when the planets steer the one-revolution dust trail of the comet into Earth’s path, an event that happens about once every 60 years. This results in an April Lyrid meteor outburst. The one-revolution dust trail is dust that has completed one orbit: the stream of dust released in the return of the comet prior to the current 1862 return.This mechanism replaces earlier ideas that the outbursts were due to a cloud of dust moving in a 60-year orbit. In 1982, amateur astronomers counted 90 April Lyrids per hour at the peak and similar rates were seen in 1922. A stronger storm of up to 700 per hour occurred in 1803, observed by a journalist in Richmond, Virginia:
Shooting stars. This electrical [sic] phenomenon was observed on Wednesday morning last at Richmond and its vicinity, in a manner that alarmed many, and astonished every person that beheld it. From one until three in the morning, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets …
Another such outburst, and the oldest known, the shower on March 23.7, 687 BC (proleptic Julian calendar) was recorded in Zuo Zhuan, which describes the shower as “On the 4th month in the summer in the year of xīn-mǎo (of year 7 of King Zhuang of Lu), at night, (the sky is so bright that some) fixed stars become invisible (because of the meteor shower); at midnight, stars fell like rain.” In the Australian Aboriginal astronomy of the Boorong tribe, the Lyrids represent the scratchings of the Mallee fowl (represented by Vega), coinciding with its nest-building season.