HOUSTON - I'm really putting the meteor in meteorologist today. Space City, get ready for a treat in the skies this week! Between passing clouds, coming in off the Gulf, you'll get a chance to see the Lyrid meteor shower. This peaks pre-dawn Saturday 4/22/17 (between 3am-dawn) with 1 or 2 meteors every 5 minutes. As always, your best chance to see them is away from city lights. With every meteor shower, if you're expecting fireworks you'll be disappointed, but there are occasions (I've seen one) when over 100 meteors happen inside of one hour. That's more than 1 per minute. It's pretty amazing to witness. When I lived in Massachusetts as a high school kid, I remember staring up at the Leonids one night in amazement that the meteors were coming in so hot and bright, they were consistently leaving smoke trails behind.
In the rare case you see see smoke behind a meteor, the "shooting star" earns the name fireball. While most meteors are the size of a few grains of sand, fireballs can be the size of small rocks. They create so much heat as they burn up that they leave an illuminated smoke trail behind for a few seconds. It's a sight to behold!
While you can see Lyrids from now through the weekend, the best night will be toward the end of the week (again, peaking Saturday morning.) Look northeast toward the star, Vega. Once the star rises (after 10pm), the meteors will seem to, "come from" from that star, radiating overhead.
ALSO, AN ASTEROID
Another out-of-this-world astronomical superlative this week will be the passing of a giant asteroid, the size of a sky scraper! It makes its closet pass Wednesday. The space rock is about 2,000 feet wide and coming too close for cosmic comfort. At 1,000,000 miles away, it's 5 times the distance from Earth to the Moon (which is good), but in the scale of cosmic infinity, it's a hair's width away. I wrote an extensive, "how to" on this amazing event.
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