Photo: A Lyrid Meteor Shower is about as bright as the Big Dipper | Jimmy Westlake, NASA
By Kevin Schindler
As featured on Azdailysun.com on April 10, 2021
In less than two weeks, the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower will show its stuff. With an expected peak of 10-20 meteors per hour, it’s not as prolific as several of its sister showers but typically makes up for this with bling, showcasing some especially bright meteors called fireballs.
The Lyrids are so named because they appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra, the Harp. In reality, they have nothing to do with this pattern of stars but instead are linked to fragments of a comet that burn up as they speed through Earth’s atmosphere at some 110,000 miles per hour.
This parent body, officially designated Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher), is a long-period comet. This is a category of comets whose members often exhibit highly inclined orbits in relation to the ecliptic (the sun’s apparent path across the sky). They take from hundreds to thousands of years to orbit.
American amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher first reported this one in 1861, when it last reached its closest approach to the sun (perihelion) and came ...