Lyrid Meteor Shower
Have you noticed any falling stars recently? You might want to keep an eye out for them, because we are in the early stages of a meteor shower.
As you may know, a lot of “falling stars” make a meteor shower, and the Lyrid Meteor Shower has just begun. The shower gets its name because the meteors seem to originate out of the constellation Lyra (The Lyre). Lyra will rise around 10:00 in the northeast, but the best viewing is expected to occur between midnight and dawn. There is a waning crescent moon out now, so if we have clear skies at night, the viewing could be quite good.
Based on the information I have read, the meteor shower began around the 16th and will continue through the 25th. Experts predict that the peak activity will occur between midnight and dawn on the 22nd, with between ten and twenty meteors per hour.
The Lyrids have the reputation for providing long trails which may last for several seconds. They are also known for their occasional outbursts which may produce over 100 meteors an hour. Wouldn’t that be a sight! The reason for these outbursts is unknown, but with a potentially impressive show like that, it is well worth monitoring.
The Lyrids are caused by material from Comet Thatcher. Comets are mixtures of ice, rock, and dust. Think of them as dirty snowballs a few miles in diameter. When comets pass near the sun, the heat causes the comets to shed ice and particles. These mostly sand-sized pieces of ice and rock create a “debris field” in outer space. When the earth passes through these debris fields, the pieces collide with the atmosphere and make it glowing hot. Viewed from earth, they are “falling stars.”
Make a point of watching the Lyrids for the next few nights. Who knows, you may even be lucky enough to “catch a falling star.” I doubt you’ll hear Perry Como singing, but don’t be surprised if you have some owls or coyotes serenading you.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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