Lyrid Meteors

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Lyrid Meteors

A meteor shower that’s been around for at least 2700 years is at its best the next couple of nights. It’s best viewed between about midnight and dawn. And the Moon sets early, so it won’t interfere with the sparklers.

The Lyrid shower was first recorded by Chinese astronomers in 687 BC. That’s farther back than any other current shower.

Over the centuries, showers come and go. They’re produced by tiny grains of rock and dirt shed by comets or asteroids. That debris spreads out along the parent body’s orbital path. Earth flies through this path every April. The particles ram into our atmosphere at more than a hundred thousand miles per hour. They vaporize, forming the glowing streaks of light known as meteors or shooting stars.

But meteor showers don’t last forever. The orbits of Earth and the parent comets and asteroids naturally move out of sync. In addition, the comets and asteroids can be pushed around by the gravity of Jupiter and other planets. That changes their paths. So over time, meteor showers come and go. But the Lyrids have stuck around longer than any other shower yet recorded.

The Lyrids are named for Lyra, the harp. That’s because the meteors all appear to “rain” into the sky from near the constellation’s brightest star, Vega. They can zip across any part of the sky, though, so you don’t need to look at Lyra to see them. But the view is best after Lyra rises to prominence, around midnight.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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