Looking Up: April Showers Bring Fiery Flowers

Apr 17, 2017

The lovely Lyrids.
Credit Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution) / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up Hal warns us of the impending Lyrid Meteor Shower. 

If you are an early riser, or a stay-up-all-nighter, the pre-dawn hours of April 22nd have a special show ready for you – the annual Lyrid meteor shower. The Lyrids, which will seem to come from NE portions of the Southern Colorado sky, are not the most spectacular meteor shower, with only about 18 meteors per hour. But they are beautiful because they tend to rocket across the sky very quickly, and some leave glowing trails in their wake.

The Lyrids are also distinctive for other reasons as well. They are the “oldest” meteor shower, in that the first records of them blazing across the sky come from Chinese astronomers over 2600 years ago! The meteors come from the debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, which circles the Sun every 415 years or so. Every 60 years or so, the Earth’s orbit smacks directly into the main part of the debris trail. That last occurred in 1982, when astronomers saw up to 90 meteors per hour. But every now and then, it gets even better. In 1803, up to 700 per hour were noted, and the grand champion is 687 BC, when Chinese observers said “the stars dropped as rain.” Not bad for a bunch of dust and dirt!

If you’d like to take a closer look at the Lyrid Meteor Shower or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!