Lyrid meteor shower to mark Earth Day
Early risers on Earth Day are in for a treat as the annual Lyrid meteor shower is set to reach its peak in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday.
The annual spring meteor shower has appeared in the Northern Hemisphere every year in April for thousands of years.
This year it began on April 16 and will continue until April 25, with the greatest number of meteors forecast for between roughly 2 and 5 a.m. Thursday.
By then, the first quarter moon will have set, giving even greater visibility.
While the best viewing will be away from city lights, the brightest shooting stars will still be visible from in town, Andrew Fazekas, astronomy correspondent for the Weather Network, told the Moncton-based Times and Transcript.
The Lyrid meteor showers usually produce an average of 15 to 20 meteors an hour and can be seen in the constellation Lyra, which will be high in the eastern sky two hours before dawn, Fazekas told the paper.
A meteor shower is essentially dust or debris from a comet's tail entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speeds.
While the Lyrid shower is a small one compared with the summertime Perseid shower, it can occasionally surprise night sky watchers.
Anthony Cook, an astronomer for the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, told the National Geographic it's possible to see 90 meteors per hour.
"In 1803 the shower produced about a thousand meteors per hour," he told the magazine.
"Although the Lyrids have been observed since 687 B.C., the behaviour of the shower from year to year is unpredictable."