Wednesday 17 April 2013

The Lyrid Meteors.

The Lyrid Meteors will be at peak visibility between 21 and 22 April  this year, though this is close to a full moon (which occurs on the 25th), so the display will not be good. The meteors, which appear to radiate from the constellation of Lyra, have been visible since the 16th, and will continue till 26 April. At its peak the Lyrid Meteor shower typically produces about 20 meteors per hour, though higher rates have been recorded.

The origin point of the Lyrid Meteors.

The Lyrid Meteors are comprised of debris from the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher (named after the astronomer A. E. Thatcher, not the politician). This is a long-period comet that spends most of its time in the Oort Cloud, only visiting the inner Solar System once every 415 years, the last occasion being in 1861. When the comet visits the inner Solar System it is heated by the Sun, melting the ices that make up its surface and releasing a trail of dust, which continues to follow the path of the comet. The Earth passes through this trail in April each year, creating a light show as the dust particles burn in the upper atmosphere.

The orbit and current position of C/1861 G1 Thatcher. Image created using the JPL Small-Body Database Browser.

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