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Louisvillians Should Be Able to See a Meteor Shower Tonight


Tonight is a good night to get out of town.

Beginning at about 10 p.m., the night sky above the Louisville area is expected to be aglow with the streaking lights of the Lyrid meteor shower, according to NASA.

If you can't get out to see it, a live feed of the shower can be seen here.

Tonight's shower isn't expected to be the best of the year, but conditions mean Louisville residents may get a good view, said Tim Dowling, director of the atmospheric space program at the University of Louisville.

"The moon is very thin—we have almost no moon tonight—and the skies are clear," he said.

Dowling said viewers can expect to see about 10 to 20 streaks per hour.

He said the spectacle is due to Earth making a pass through the orbit of Comet Thatcher, which revolves around the sun about every 400 years.

The Earth passes through the dust left behind by Comet Thatcher every year in April. The shower gets its name, Lyrid, because the particles originate in our night sky near the constellation Lyra, Dowling added.

"You'll see them all over the sky, but if you draw a line back to where they all come from, it looks like a radiant," he said

The particles responsible for the lighted streaks can be the size of a pea or as large as a fist, Dowling said. The atmosphere will burn the particles before they reach the Earth's surface, he added.

So no need to move your car out of the way.

Particles pass through the Earth's atmosphere every night, and those streaks are commonly known as shooting stars, Dowling said. When these particles enter the atmosphere and are visible at the rate of about 10 per hour, they become meteor showers.

This meteor shower is somewhat significant, Dowling said, because "we don't have very many this time of year."

If you want to view it, get as far away from lighted areas as possible, Dowling said.

He recommended heading out of Louisville into more rural areas.

And don't use binoculars.

"It's hard to find them with binoculars," he said. "With meteor showers you just want to look, because they could be anywhere."

(Image courtesy of NASA)

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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