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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks April 22-23

The Lyrids, the best meteor shower of the first half of 2015 peaks this Wednesday night and in the early hours of Thursday morning, Yom Haatzmaut. Peak rates are around 20 meteors per hour after midnight, although in some years the shower has surprised with peak rates of over 100+ per hour. A meteor shower occurs when the earth passes through the orbit of an old comet that has shed rocky and dusty debris as it orbits the sun. As the earth passes through the debris field bits of cometary particles burn up from friction with the earth's atmosphere, leaving behind a bright train of ionized particles we see as the "shooting star". Most cometary particles are no bigger than a grain of sand, bright meteors perhaps the size of a pea. The meteors appear to emirate from a region of the sky called the radiant. The shower takes its name from the constellation that contains the radiant, in this case the constellation Lyra. You need not be looking at the radiant to view the shower. Just lie down in a comfy spot on the ground or a reclining chair, stay warm with a blanket, and watch the sky. Keep count and see how many meteors you observe each hour, or fraction of an hour. No optical instruments required. In fact, they get in the way since you want as wide a field of view as possible which only your naked eye can provide.

I will be having a star tour the night of April 22. Call or email for a space. The weather is forecast to be clear that night, turning inclement the next day and night.




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