I have always been fascinated with space, growing up as a teen in Florida I can remember laying on the hood of my car on the beach at night, and just looking up into space, and seeing stars everywhere with wonder. And living not far from the Kennedy Space Center I could see all of the rocket launches into space. It’s a vast wonderland in space that captures our imaginations and we are now about to see some shooting stars.
Mike Murray from Delta College’s Planetarium told us at an earlier time that, “The Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers on record, dating back to China around 690 BCE. The light show occurs when our planet crosses the orbit of Comet Thatcher, causing its debris of ice and dust to burn up in the atmosphere.”
Michigan normally sees the Perseids and the Lyrid meteor showers. The Perseids are more active than the Lyrids, but you see more fireballs with the Lyrids, which can look a bit scary. Recommended viewing times this year is Wednesday April 21st up to before sunrise on the 22nd. When viewing you want to watch the northeastern sky and will shoot more from the east as we approach the midnight hour. And on Thursday morning you want to watch to the southwest. There is no way to know when the meteors will peak, but close to midnight is a better chance.
Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1) is the source of the Lyrid meteors. Every year, in late April, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of this comet. We have no photos of it because its orbit around the sun is roughly 415 years. Comet Thatcher last visited the inner solar system in 1861, before the photographic process became widespread. The vaporizing debris streaks the nighttime with medium-fast Lyrid meteors.
Current forecasts look like we will be between a couple of storm systems next week, so we do have a decent chance at a clear sky, and of course meteor showers. Happy viewing.
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