Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight
Ancient comet Thatcher left behind a large debris field and once a year the Earth passes through it producing the Lyrid Meteor shower.
It’s not one of the more powerful shows, usually there are between 10 and 20 meteors an hour, but sometimes the filaments in the dust of the tail allows for a much stronger show producing up to 100 plus “shooting stars” an hour to be seen. Forecasters expect the peak to come between 10:00 to 21:00 UT.
Every year in April, Earth plows through Thatcher’s dusty tail. Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light.
Lyrid meteors are typically as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper, which is to say of middling brightness. But some are more intense, even brighter than Venus. These “Lyrid fireballs” cast shadows for a split second and leave behind smokey debris trails that linger for minutes.
Occasionally, the shower intensifies. Most years in April there are no more than 5 to 20 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak. But sometimes, when Earth glides through an unusually dense clump of comet debris, the rate increases. Sky watchers in 1982, for instance, counted 90 Lyrids per hour. (source)
Todays sunspot number is 168 and NOAA estimates that there’s a 50% chance of M-class flares over the next 24 hours and a 10% chance of X-class flares during the same period.