The yearly Lyrids Meteor shower is currently underway. The shower is usually active between the 16th and the 26th of April each year. The peak of this shower will be on the evening of April 21st and the morning of April 22nd. From 11 p.m Monday to 5 a.m. on Tuesday about 20 meteors per hour can be seen from the northeast sky. The last quarter moon will cause some viewing concerns, but in rural areas, the event will be best seen. Unfortunately for all areas in our region, we will either be seeing rain or clouds during the event. If you happen to be further to the southeast for this event you’ll have a better chance at viewing the shower.
The reason for the shower each year is that around this time, the Earth is crossing the orbital path of the comet Thatcher. This comet is extremely rare because it takes about 415 years to orbit around the sun. Therefore, the last time it came close enough for us to see it, there were no cameras around to take a picture. The next time the comet is expected to come close to us is in the year 2276. This will be the first year the comet Thatcher will be able to be photographed. Debris left behind this comet is what we get to see every year. The debris left behind (sometimes being only the size of a grain of sand) burns up in our atmosphere. This is what causes the Lyrids meteor shower! The debris hits the atmosphere at a rate of 110,000 mph, which causes the particles to vaporize and streak the nighttime sky.
So with the unfortunate storm system moving in, the shower will be hidden this year. Don’t get discouraged though. We pass through the orbit of Comet Thatcher every year, so about this time next year, if all is clear, we will get to see it. Also, keep in mind that this shower is not even close to the most active showers we see. The Giminids Meteor Shower usually occurs annually between Dec. 7th and the 17th. At it’s peak, the Giminids shower averages 120 multicolored meteors per hour! Also, there is a possible meteor storm forecasted for May 24th this year. At it’s peak we could see anywhere from dozens to hundreds of meteors per hour!