Sky Watch – Shooting Stars

Sky Watch: Week of April 19, NYTimes

Late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, the sky offers an annual display of shooting stars – the Lyrid meteors. Meteor showers are predictable in time, but not in behavior. The average for the Lyrids is only about 15 per hour. The best way to watch is to lie on a garden chair and look all over the sky. Soon you will see a streak. Trace the path backward; trace a second and a third when you see those. Later meteors in the shower will appear to radiate from the same spot, called the radiant, and the location of the radiant names the shower. This radiant is southwest of the star Vega in Lyra, hence the name Lyrids. The light streaks are about 80 miles above us, where these tiny meteoroids crash into our atmosphere. They are believed to be the dross of Thatcher’s comet, which passed by us in 1861.

Compiled by Joe Rao, lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium

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