It may seem odd, but some of those streaks in Rockford's night time skies aren't snowflakes--April is Lyrid Meteor Shower time once again.

I know, looking into the evening (and/or early morning) sky lately has really gotten you nothing but a face full of far-too-late-in-the-freaking-year snow. But, those in the know say that you should keep with it because the Lyrid Meteor Shower is a real treat.

So, what causes the Lyrid Meteor Shower?


Lyrid meteors are little pieces of Comet Thatcher, a long-period comet that orbits the sun about once every 415 years. Pieces of debris left in the comet's wake, however, make an appearance every year. (Comet Thatcher's most recent perihelion, or closest approach to the sun, was in 1861. It won't be back until the year 2276.)

Meteor showers occur when the Earth crosses the path of a comet, colliding with a trail of comet crumbs. That's why they happen around the same time every year and appear to originate from specific points in the sky. As they burn up in the atmosphere, the meteors leave bright streaks in the sky commonly referred to as "shooting stars."

The Lyrids are one of the oldest recorded showers, with reported sightings going all the way back to 687 BC.

The best time to see the Lyrids is between Midnight and 5am, local time, going on now until the 25th. Experts say the very best time to catch the show will be on Sunday, April 22nd, with peak viewing time being about an hour before dawn.

The average Lyrid shower produces 15 to 20 meteors per hour--this year, the meteor shower should hit about 18 per hour. Some years, the Lyrid meteor shower intensifies and can produce up to 100 meteors per hour in what's called an "outburst," but it is difficult to predict exactly when that will happen.


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