Dust off the lawn chairs and get ready for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower which will occur on the night of April 22.
“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke said. “For the 2015 shower, I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Peak rates should occur after 10:30 PM on April 22 your local time, for observers in the northern hemisphere. For observers in the southern hemisphere, Lyrid rates are not significant until after midnight your local time.”
Viewing tips for the Lyrids
No special equipment is needed to watch a meteor shower. Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.
A camera, provided by scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will offer a live feed of the Lyrids beginning at 10:00 PM CDT.The camera is light-activated, and will switch on at nightfall. During daytime hours, the webcast will show recorded views of past meteor showers.
Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, which causes the Lyrid meteor shower. You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, a second fireball occurred about 40 minutes after the fireball in Tennessee. The Michigan fireball is close to the edge of the camera because the meteor was at extreme range, over 200 miles away, for the camera.
The Michigan fireball was produced by a piece of a comet over 2 feet across, probably weighing around 40 pounds. It hit Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 54,000 mph.
We have completed our analyses and here’s what we know:
At 10:19 PM Central Daylight Time on August 2 (Saturday night), NASA meteor cameras detected a very bright fireball at an altitude of 57 miles above Hoodoo Road just east of the town of Beechgrove, TN. The meteoroid, which was about 15 inches in diameter and weighed close to 100 lbs, travelled just over 100 miles to the south south east at 47,000 miles per hour, breaking apart in a brilliant flash of light above the Alabama town of Henagar. The cameras continued to track a large fragment until it disappeared 18 miles above Gaylesville, located near Lake Weiss close to the Georgia state line. At last sight, the fragment was still traveling at 11,000 miles per hour. Based on the meteor’s speed, final altitude, and weak doppler radar signatures, it is believed that this fireball produced small meteorites on the ground somewhere between Borden Springs, AL and Lake Weiss.
The meteoroid’s orbit has its farthest point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is inclined to that of the Earth (which explains its southerly direction).
The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office would like to hear from those in the area around Alabama’s Lake Weiss who may have heard sonic booms or like sounds around 10:20 PM Saturday night. Please contact Dr. Bill Cooke at email@example.com if you have reports of such.
On Sunday evening, a bright fireball was reported by visual observers in Tennessee. Occurring about 7:22 PM Central, the meteor was detected by 4 of our All Sky cameras – those in Huntsville; Chickamauga, GA; Cartersville, GA; and Dahlonega, GA. The fireball was picked up at an altitude of 55 miles moving east of south at 52,000 miles per hour; it burned up at an altitude of 27 miles just south of Anniston, AL. This was not a Taurid, as the orbit indicates it is a fragment from a Jupiter family comet, which have an aphelion (furthest distance from the Sun) out near Jupiter. This particular piece of interplanetary debris was between 2-3 inches in diameter and weighed about 5 ounces.
The fireball over southern California last night at 7:49 PM PST was a North Taurid. Brighter than the Full Moon, it was caused by a piece of Comet Encke about 2 feet in diameter hitting the atmosphere at 56,000 mph. Information about the fireball was provided by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) and is the NASA organization responsible for meteoroid environments pertaining to spacecraft engineering and operations. The MEO leads NASA technical work on the meteoroid environment and coordinates the existing meteoroid expertise at NASA centers.
The annual Perseid meteor shower peaked on Aug. 12 and 13, 2013, filling the sky with streaks of light caused by the meteoroids burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. Big meteor showers like the Perseids, are caused when Earth travels through a region of space filled with debris shed by a comet. The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are the small fragments from comet Swift-Tuttle. These bits of ice and dust wander in space for centuries, finally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.
Compilation of Perseid meteors taken by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network cameras. Video credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO
This Perseid fireball meteor was observed in the skies over Chickamauga, Ga., on Aug. 11, 2013, at 2:14:49 a.m. EDT. It was also recorded by four other cameras in the NASA All Sky Fireball Network. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO
Here is a video of a bright Perseid seen by our all-sky camera located at PARI (NC) in the early morning hours of July 30. Several Perseids have already been detected and they are not set to peak for over a week! The nights of August 11-12 and 12-13 will be the best time to observe, but check out fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov regularly to see how many have already been detected by our all-sky cameras!
Same meteor — same location — two different meteor cameras! The video shows the same meteor (an Eta Aquarid!) from one of our all-sky cameras and from our wide-field camera (~20×15 degree FOV) both located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
Despite interference from the moon and clouds (and rising sun!), this morning we snagged our first observations of the 2013 Eta Aquarids. Here’s an image of one from the all sky camera in Tullahoma, Tennessee. The Eta Aquarids peak in the pre-dawn hours on May 6 and are material from Halley’s comet. They zoom around the solar system at speeds near 148,000 mph. The one seen here burned up completely in our atmosphere over Nunnelly, Tennessee at a height of 58.7 miles above the ground.
There are numerous reports of a bright fireball over northwest Alabama on Sunday, Nov. 18 at approximately 7:30 p.m. EST (6:30 p.m. CST). Southeastern cameras managed by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office recorded the fireball, which was brighter than the moon.
The image above is from the Marshall Space Flight Center camera. The moon is the bright object at the bottom right, and the fireball is the REALLY bright object. Even though this was a very bright fireball, the meteor fragmented too high in the atmosphere to produce meteorites on the ground — very spectacular, but nothing of substance survived.
Details for the fireball meteor:
Time: Sunday, Nov. 18, 7:29:25 p.m. EST (6:29:25 p.m. CST) Speed: 28,400 mph Direction: Roughly north to south
The fireball appeared 49 miles above the Alabama/Tennessee state line just north of Athens, Ala. It disintegrated 28 miles above Ole Carriage Dr., just east of Athens. A map of the meteor trajectory appears below.
This may very well be the brightest fireball we have seen with the Marshall Center camera!