Lyrid Meteors

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Lyrid Meteors

The Lyrid meteor shower is building toward its peak, on Sunday night. The Moon will be almost full then, so its glare will wash out all but the brightest of the “shooting stars.”

The shower is the offspring of Comet Thatcher 1861. The comet orbits the Sun once every 415 years or so.

As Thatcher approaches the Sun, some of the ice at its surface vaporizes. That releases small bits of dirt and rock into space. This debris spreads out along the comet’s path. Earth flies through this path every April. Some of the comet dust slams into our atmosphere and burns up — forming meteors.

At least, most of it does. It’s likely that some of the grains fall to the surface. In fact, a recent study might have found some of those grains at the bottom of New York’s Hudson River.

Researchers sifted through layers of sand and mud deposited thousands of years ago. The layers included fossils of microscopic organisms that were coated with tin — an element that likely came from outside Earth. The scientists also found other elements that probably originated outside our planet as well. The layers were laid down at roughly 400-year intervals — suggesting a possible connection with Comet Thatcher and the Lyrid meteors.

The findings are preliminary. So we don’t know for sure whether there’s a link between the sediments at the bottom of the Hudson River and the streaks of light in April’s night skies.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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