Small pieces from Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher will slam into Earth’s atmosphere tomorrow night and into the early morning hours of April 23rd. It will be the peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower.
Experts expect peak rates to be around 15 to 20 meteors per hour. The best viewing time will come starting at 10:30 pm local time. Wait until midnight for a moon-free sky.
Look to the east.
The Lyrid meteor shower’s radiant – the point where the meteors will appear – will be in the constellation Lyra, its namesake.
Astronomy Magazine posted this handy image on where to look.
Astronomy Magazine also posted an interesting little fact you might not know. The hourly rate of meteors during a regular night is six.
The Lyrids have been known to see massive spikes in the hourly rate. This happens as the Earth moves through a very dense chunk of the comet’s debris. In 1803, up to 700 meteors per hour were observed.
A journalist in Richmond, Virginia wrote at the time, “From one until three in the morning, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets…”
Another report during the storm said 167 meteors were counted in 15 minutes.
That must have been one hell of a sight. Sadly, experts are not anticipating a meteor shower like that tomorrow.
Still, it only takes one good meteor to make it worth it. Grab your favorite chair, get away from city lights and enjoy the show.
Image credits: Astronomy Magazine / Till Credner and Sven Kohle