The Lyrid meteor shower is coming this weekend, an annual event that occurs each April when the earth moves through the dusty remains of an old, broken comet called Comet Thatcher.
Star gazers have enjoyed the show for over 2,000 years, with a Chinese report from 687 B.C. that claimed that the meteors fell like rain. There was also a powerful display in 1982, when 90 meteors fell an hour at the peak.
Most years, the display runs around five to 20 meteors an hour.
To give yourself the best shot, you will want to seek out clear, cloudless skies when the moon isn’t up. For this year, that means that, if the weather is right, you should have your falling star party scheduled to run from around 4 to 5 am on the morning of April 22.
This meteor shower will be a northern hemisphere event, and viewers in the western half of North America will likely have the best chance of seeing the show.
Most meteors put on a harmless and beautiful display, and that’s what we expect from the Lyrid meteor shower.
However, a lot of nerves were ruffled in February when the largest meteor in 100 years struck the earth in Russia. While damage estimates have varied, around 2,100 people were injured and thousands of buildings, including apartment residences, were damaged in the blast. Clean-up costs were estimated at $33 million and rising.
During last year’s Lyrid meteor shower on April 22, 2012, a California meteor reportedly broke the known speed record when a recovered meteorite when it entered the atmosphere at a speed of around 64,000 miles per hour.
When meteors hit the ground, they become known as meteorites. Dubbed the Sutter Hill meteorite, that speed demon was later collected in 77 pieces by astronomer Peter Jenniskens and other seekers.
Sure, there’s no guarantee that you’ll make a catch that good. But who knows?
If the weather allows, on early Monday morning I for one will be checking out the Lyrid meteor shower.
[falling meteor streak photo by Brocken Inaglory via Wikipedia Commons]