Okanagan astronomer Ken Tapping shared a different way to catch the upcoming Lyrid meteor shower.
“One trick you can try is quite fun. You turn your radio to 102.3 FM when you are driving to work in the morning. There is no radio station there, at least in the Penticton area, and generally you will hear a burst of music that can be a fraction of a second or one time I heard it go for 30 seconds. As the earth curves away the signal is passing around us and 70 to 80 kilometres above it bounces off the meteors ionized trail. It just so happens that this radio station we get bursts of is from California and I only know that because one day I was listening for it and it happened to say you are listening to Sunny 102.3 FM before I lost it, so I Googled it,” said Ken Tapping, who is an astronomer with the National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. “So, if you aren’t into lying in the grass and looking up the sky, this is another way to count the meteors. Sometimes you have no luck, other times it can be quite fun.”
The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies mid-April. Tapping said it is not the most “brilliant” but if you are patient you should get a bit of a show.
“Every year at this time there are streams of debris leftover by decay of comets. It leaves a trail of grit behind it. We go through about half a dozen streams in a year, the Perseid shower in August always tends to be the best,” said Tapping. “We go through the stream and it is moving at about 100,000 kilometres per hour, and we are moving fast as well, as they come into the atmosphere and burn up we see these streaks across the sky that are the meteors.”
While a good meteor shower has 100 to 150 streaks in the sky, the Lyrid will give us about 20. Tapping said the best viewing will be between April 19 to 25 and that people should look into the northeastern sky in the late evening. He added the bright white star, called Vega in the Lyra constellation, is the direction they will be coming from.
“One thing that is really neat, and I have only every had this happen twice while observing meteor showers, is that something might appear as a star and over a couple of seconds it gets really bright, blurry and then vanishes. What you have just seen there is one coming right at you. It can be a bit scary at first,” Tapping said.
While you don’t need binoculars to view the meteor shower, Tapping suggests a comfortable seat, a blanket and a bit of patience.
“Generally things are a bit better in the early hours. As the Earth goes around the sun at say 6 a.m. it is like looking forwards in the windshield and by 6 p.m. you are looking backwards. So think of it as a car, you pick up more bugs on the windscreen when you are driving. You are either looking at the ones overtaking us, which are harder to notice, or charging into them and seeing them better,” he said.
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