Did you get to see the meteor showers this week?  Mid-April is when Earth planet passes through the trail of dust and debris left in the wake of comet Thatcher.  It is a “long period comet” that makes a complete orbit around the sun only once every 415 years.

But you don’t need to wait that long to see evidence. The April Lyrids appear from April 16 to April 26 each year. They often peak on Earth Day (22nd).

They are just bits of dust that slam into our atmosphere, but at 110,000 mph it creates dramatic streaks of light across the night sky. This is what we call the Lyrid meteor showers.

There are meteor showers that are better known, bigger and brighter than the Lyrids, but it is one of the oldest known meteor showers. Back in 687 BC , astronomers in ancient China first recorded this shower.

The shower in 687 BC (proleptic Julian calendar) was recorded in Zuo Zhuan:

“On day xīn-mǎo of month 4 in the summer of year 7 of King Zhuang of Lu, at night, fixed stars are invisible, at midnight, stars dropped down like rain.”

 

The meteors are about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper and will appear to come from the constellation Lyra (the harp), which lies near the bright star Vega.

I will be out in a wooded and somewhat isolated area tonight and hope to catch a glimpse.

The Lyrid meteor shower averages about 15 to 20 meteors per hour according to NASA. Some years are more dense.  In 1982, astronomers counted 90 meteors per hour. This year is not an optimal year because the moon is more than half full and its light will overcome many of the meteor showers.

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