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Good viewing for the Lyrid meteor shower tonight

NASA to offer streaming meteor cam, online web chats

A perseid shooting star streaks across the Milky Way. PHOTO COURTESY NASA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — People have been watching bits of Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher blaze through the Earth’s atmosphere for more than 2,600 years — long before they knew what caused the brilliant shooting stars, and tonight should be a perfect night catch a glimpse of the Lyrid Meteor shower.

Astronomers say the shower could deliver shooting stars at the rate of 10 to 100 per hour, peaking in just before sunrise. A rate of 15 to 20 meteors per hour is not unrealistic, and in some previous years, the unpredictable event delivered bursts of up to 100 shooting stars.

As with so many other events these days, the 2012 Lyrids will be an interactive online experience. NASA meteor experts Dr. Bill Cooke, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will answer  questions about the Lyrids via a live web chat between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. EDT — convert to your local time here.

According to NASA, the Lyrids will be visible around the planet and in addition to a live meteor cam, NASA is teaming up with students from a middle school and a high school in Alabama to launch a video camera on a balloon above Earth’s surface on the night of the Lyrids peak — hopefully to capture brilliant meteors burning up in the atmosphere from a vantage point well above the clouds.

The International Space Station will also get in on the action, with astronaut Don Pettit  setting up cameras to try and capture the Lyrids from space. NASA hopes the effort will produce simultaneous space-ground imagery of one or more meteors, which can be used to test ideas and algorithms for processing data gathered by future space-based meteor observatories.

A live video feed of the Lyrid meteor shower will be embedded on this page on the night of the Web chat, and there will be alternate allsky views being streamed from this allsky camera network.

More on the Lyrids from NASA:

The Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. 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.

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