Wednesday 18 April 2018

The Lyrid Meteor Shower.

The Lyrid Meteors are typically visible between 16 and 25 April each year, and will be at peak visibility on the morning of Sunday 22 April in 2017. This coincides with the First Quarter Moon, also on Sunday 22 April, so viewing this year should be good. At its peak the Lyrid Meteor shower typically produces about 20 meteors per hour, though higher rates have been recorded.

Sky map showing the radiant point for the Lyrid Meteors (i.e. the point from which the meteors appear to radiate). Earth Sky.

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 which appears to radiate from the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra. 

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