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Lyrid meteors usher in Earth day

Skies promise to fill with shooting stars on moonless night.

Lyrid meteor earth dayEnlarge
A meteoroid streaks across the sky against a field of stars during a meteor shower early Aug. 13, 2010, near Grazalema, Spain. (JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images)

As Earth day arrives, all eyes might be on the heavens as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks just before dawn Sunday, National Geographic reported.

It could be one of the best years to watch the meteors, with a moonless night forecast, said Vancouver astronomer Raminder Singh Samra.

“Typical hourly rates for the Lyrids can run between 10 and 20 meteors,” he told NatGeo. “However, rates as high as a hundred meteors per hour are not uncommon. … On rare occasions there may even be fireballs streaking across the sky, too, making it quite a spectacular sight for observers.”

The “shooting stars” should appear to originate from the constellation Lyra near the star Vega.

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Lyrid meteors form as the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher sheds debris as it orbits the Sun, Discovery News said.

We see the results of those meteoroids entering the atmosphere and burning up as Earth passes through Thatcher’s orbit.

“The real beauty of meteor showers is that they require no equipment to enjoy,” Discovery’s Mark Thompson writes, “just wrap-up warm and gaze up at the sky.”

The viewing could begin as early as midnight, ABC News reported.

The best vantage points, of course, will be in remote – or at least dark – areas.

“Typical Lyrids are about as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper,” NASA scientist Bill Cooke told ABC. “And it’s not unusual to see one or two fireballs when the shower peaks.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/science/120421/lyrid-meteors-usher-earth-day