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The annual Lyrid meteor shower is active each year from about April 16 to 25. You might have spotted one the past week, but the peak activity this year is predicted to be tomorrow morning (April 22).
There will be little or no interfering light from the slender waning crescent moon.
The greatest number of meteors will usually fall during the few hours before dawn, but the Lyrid meteor shower is just as unpredictable as any meteor shower.
The shooting stars seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, near the brilliant star Vega. These meteors burn up in the atmosphere about 100 kilometers/60 miles above Earth and Vega lies trillions of times farther away at 25 light-years, so they just “appear” to come from Lyra. You don’t need to find Lyra in order to see meteors as they are visible in any part of the sky.
Tonight is a Full Moon. With a Full Moon and also with a New Moon our only permanent natural satellite is on a line with the Earth and sun. When new, the moon is in the middle position along the line, and when full, Earth is in the middle. A Full Moon always comes about two weeks after the new phase.
I wonder if this alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is part of the appeal of a Full Moon. A lunar eclipse always happens at Full Moon as only then the Earth’s shadow, extending opposite the sun, can fall on the Moon’s face.
A Celtic name for the April Full Moon is the Growing Moon, referring to this time of plants returning to their growing seasons and humans turning to planting again.
No matter what the mixed weather of march may have brought to your area last month, at least some days of April will feel like true spring has arrived.
This month’s moon is sometimes called the Pink Moon, not for its color, but for the color of the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Of course, I am also seeing plenty of yellow forsythia, daffodils and crocuses in neighborhood gardens.
Names like the Full Sprouting Grass Moon and Seed Moon are also growing reminders.
The Egg Moon name reminds us of new life from the eggs of birds and fowl and echoes the egg themes of Easter and Eostre.
The name Fish Moon references this time when shad move upstream to spawn.
This Sunday starts the annual Lyrid meteor shower which I think of as an April spring event. It is active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2017, the peak of this shower is expected to occur the morning of April 22.
Although the Perseid meteor showers have been visible and increasing for a few weeks, they are expected to produce the greatest number of meteors on the night of August 11-12, 2016.
This year they may be a “Perseid outburst” with 200 meteors per hour at the peak.
Meteor showers tend to be best after midnight and predawn is often the optimum time to watch. When the Moon is less than full, the sky will be darker and better for viewing.
The annual Ursid meteor shower peaks near the time of the winter solstice. They are generally easier to see in the more northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, it will have to compete with city lights and the Moon this year, so I’m not sure his year I will see any meteors.
Meteor showers take their names from the constellations hat they appear to come from (radiant point). The Little Dipper asterism is in the constellation Ursa Minor, the smaller She-Bear or Lesser Bear, gives us the Ursid meteor shower name.
These are not prolific showers and that waxing gibbous moon all night makes the predawn hours better than night. The peak is predicted to be before dawn on December 23.
“Sidney Hall – Urania’s Mirror – Draco and Ursa Minor” by Sidney Hall – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g10050.
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The last meteor shower of the year is the Ursids which began on Dec. 17 and will end on Dec. 25. It peaks on Dec. 22 and 23.
It is one of the minor meteor showers that produces up to 5-10 meteors per hour.
We can also observe at least five planets in the December sky. Mercury will be too close to the sun for most of the year and so the view is affected by sun’s glare, but by the end of the month, it will move away from the sun and will be visible in the west-southwest sky after the sunset.
Venus returned as our “evening star” in the southwestern sky at the beginning of the month. Mars is will be visible in southwestern sky. Jupiter will appear in southern sky at night and Saturn will emerge as a “morning star” in the southeastern sky visible at the daybreak.
For those of you up late tonight, like me, December 13 and 14 nights will see the peak of the Geminids meteor shower which is sometimes called the “king of the meteor showers.” It can produce up to 120 multi-colored meteors per hour when it is at its peak.
The entire window of visibility begins on December 7 and ends on the 17th, but the anticipated peak is the night of the 13th into the morning of the 14th.
They are primarily visible in the Northern Hemisphere, but can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere too. Sky gazers in Australia can expect to see 30-40 meteors per hour.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the “falling stars” will seem to come from the constellation Gemini above the eastern horizon. West of Gemini is the brilliant planet Jupiter which looks like a star to our unaided eyes, and just before sunrise, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury appear above the southeastern horizon.