This Saturday night, Hastings residents will get a chance to view the Lyrid meteor shower peak, as a new moon ensures a dark sky and thus excellent viewing opportunities in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr. Steven Bever, associate professor of physics, said that meteor showers are quite common, but ideal conditions are not.
“Meteors are coming into our atmosphere all the time and you can observe them year-round,” Bever said. “They’re commonly called shooting stars … that was a meteor coming through our atmosphere.”
Space.com, an astronomical and space exploration website, notes that Lyrid showers tend to be mild, making this weekend’s peak unique, with a predicted 15 meteors per hour and a possible high of 100.
To ensure optimal viewing, Bever recommends selecting a spot a few miles north of the city, away from its light pollution, which can make observing the sky difficult. Viewers should look north as well, but meteors can come across all parts of the sky.
In order to let their eyes acclimate to the darkness, Bever said that viewers should not look at artificial sources of light, such as a cell phone screen.
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris fields in space, such as those created by a comet orbiting the sun. When some of the debris of dust and ice become attracted by Earth’s gravitational pull, they fall to its surface. Friction with the atmosphere due to their high-speed fall causes them to burn up, producing the visible “shower” effect of light.
However, there is very little danger to Earth-bound viewers, as the debris – which range in size from a few centimeters to a few meters in size – often burn up completely before reaching the surface.
“People need not fear,” Bever said.
For photos of the meteor shower, check hcmediaonline.org on Monday.
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