Grab a warm blanket and head out tonight, as the morning of April 22 is at the top of the Lirid meteor shower.
The Laird shower is the most advanced of the occasional. Its height can be up to 90 tattoos per hour, but it only happens every 60 years or so, and we have two more decades before that peak comes around again. So, although it won’t be a shower for ages, tonight you can expect to see about 10 meteors per hour. But as it is one of the first meteor showers of the year, anyone who likes shooting stars will go there.
The best time to see them is between midnight and dawn, and as always the sky is clearer with light so no light pollution should be avoided. They will appear from the direction of the Lira constellation, from which they take their name. Luckily Vega, an incredibly bright star, is in this constellation so it should help you find it. As the Earth crosses the comet’s orbit, the tattoos are the remnants of comet Thatcher. This celestial body comes closer to the sun every 415 years (the next time will be in 2276), which heats up the comet’s surface, expelling dust and particles, after which it replenishes the debris.
As the Earth passes this path, some debris in our atmosphere ignites, creating “shooting stars” or meteors. The Lirid meteor shower is one of the oldest mentioned meteor showers. A spectacular weather event in 687 BC is found in the history of an ancient Chinese narrative called Xu Juhan. The text describes the top of Lirid that year because “the stars fell like rain.” The meteor shower is also mentioned in ancient Australian Indigenous astronomy.
The Northern Hemisphere is the best place to watch the event, looking northeast at any time between the moonrise and the dawn hours. People in the Southern Hemisphere will still have a chance to find some shooting stars, though a little later, probably the lowest in the sky before dawn on April 22 in the north.
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