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One of the world’s oldest meteor showers to light up the Australian night sky on April 22, 2020

Jack Gramenz, April 21, 2020 11:50PM news.com.au

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A composite image of meteors in the Lyrid shower over the US state of Texas in 2012. Picture: NASA media_cameraA composite image of meteors in the Lyrid shower over the US state of Texas in 2012. Picture: NASA

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The Lyrid meteor shower has been lighting up the night sky for the past few days, and is expected to hit its peak over Australia tonight (Wednesday, April 22 into Thursday morning).

The annual show is named after the Lyra constellation* and occurs when Earth’s orbit crosses with the orbit of the comet Thatcher.

The comet itself doesn’t come close to Earth.

It hasn’t even entered the inner solar system since 1861, and isn’t expected to again until 2276, thanks to its roughly 415 year orbit.

Pieces of debris that have fallen off the comet intersect* with the Earth’s orbit every year around April, according to astronomy site EarthSky.

Children's imagination media_cameraAustralians will be able to see the Lyrid shower without the need for telescopes.

The Lyrid shower is one of the oldest known regular meteor showers, dating back 2700 years.

You can expect to see around 10 to 18 meteors an hour if you have good viewing conditions.

Leaving your house to try and observe a meteor shower is unlikely to be considered essential travel, so it’s recommended that you don’t move to higher ground or out of the city in order to try and see the meteors.

But if you lie on the ground in your yard and give yourself time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, you could be able to see some of the meteors, depending on local light pollution from things like streetlights and signs.

Those in country areas have a better chance thanks to less light pollution and development blocking out views.

COMING SOON!
Watch out for the next exciting meteor shower to come to your sky: Eta Aquarids.

This annual shower of meteors – some with a glowing green tail behind them — will peak at 7am (EST*) on May 6 and is visible for several days before and after this date.

Eta Aquarids is the Earth passing through a field of debris left behind by Halley’s comet hundreds of years ago.

GLOSSARY

  • constellation: a group of stars that appear to form a pattern or a shape of something recognisable
  • intersect: cross paths
  • EST: Eastern Standard Time, which is the time in winter in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is a constellation? Give an example.
  2. What comet causes Lyrids?
  3. Should you travel away from home to see the meteor shower this year? Why or why not?
  4. Why could it be easier in the country to see meteors?
  5. What is the next big meteor shower that we will be able to see?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY
1. Capture it!
A meteor shower is a big event for astronomers and photographers. Some camp out for nights hoping to see and record these special scenes in our night sky.

Imagine you are a photographer setting up to take the best photo of your life to show the world an incredible view of Australia.

Choose an Australian landmark or scene — perhaps the Sydney Opera House, Uluru, a beach or special tree or wildlife — anything you think shows off something beautiful about our country.

Then, draw, paint or make a collage of that scene with the Lyrids meteor shower happening in the night sky behind the landmark.

Give your “photo” (artwork) a title and record the place and date it was “taken”.

Time: take at least 30 minutes to plan and make your artwork, longer if you like
Curriculum links: English, Science, Arts

VCOP ACTIVITY
Up-Level It

Scan through the article and see if you can locate three words that you consider to be basic, or low level. Words we use all the time and they can be replaced by more sophisticated words, words like good and said are examples of overused words.

Once you have found them, see if you can up-level them. Think of synonyms you could use instead of these basic words, but make sure they still fit into the context of the article.

Re-read the article with your new words.

Did it make it better?

Why/Why not?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you ever seen a meteor? Or have you seen another interesting night sky event?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

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