A thousands-year-old meteor shower will peak in the night sky this week

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April has already been an exciting year for night sky watchers, with the full pink moon last weekend, several asteroid flybys, and the alignment of four planets throughout the month. Top that off with the Lyrid meteor shower, which first appeared over the Northern Hemisphere on April 14. The peak of the phenomenon—and your best chance to see it—is April 22, 2022. And while it makes for an exciting nocturnal activity, it also holds some scientific significance: Any meteorites that make it to Earth’s surface might hold valuable data on the history of the solar system. Those that don’t survive will just become part of the annual fireball show.

– What’s so special about the Lyrids?

The Lyrids were written about in the year 687 BCE in the Zhou dynasty, making it the oldest reference to a meteor shower that’s continued into modern times. The account read that “in the middle of the night, stars fell like rain.” More than 2,700 years later, people can see the same celestial downpour, knowing it’s slightly distinct from a star in freefall.

– Why does the meteor shower happen every year?

The Lyrid meteor shower is created by space debris from Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher). This comet orbits the sun once every 415.5 years, leaving a dusty trail across the solar system. When the Earth passes through the tracks in April on its own orbit, the remnants burn up in the atmosphere to create a fiery spectacle.

– Will the Lyrids look any different now than in previous years?

On April 22, the moon will be 61 percent illuminated and in its “waning gibbous” phase. This means that the lunar light could interfere with the Lyrids’ visibility, similar to how the sun blocks them out during the day. Still, they will be clearer in the night sky than in the past few weeks, given that the full moon has passed.

– So, how are meteors and comets related again?

A comet is a frozen ball of gas, dust, and rock that orbits the sun, largely within the solar system’s Kuiper Belt or enveloping Oort Cloud. When a comet passes close to the sun, the heat warms up its nucleus and creates tails of dust and gas. These streaks contain space debris, or meteoroids, which officially turn into meteors as they burn up in Earth’s sky. If they stay intact enough to hit the ground, they are called meteorites.

– How can I see the Lyrids in all their glory?

The best night for viewing in the Northern Hemisphere is April 22, when the rate of meteors passing through the atmosphere peaks at 15 to 20 per hour. The display should be so dazzling, you can glimpse them with the naked eye (as long as your surroundings are dark enough). Use an app with an augmented reality map to orient yourself in the night sky. Then check out the area around the star Vega, where the meteor shower appears to originate from.

– If I miss this meteor shower, when and where is the next one?

Meteor watchers will have another chance to see the sky on fire from May 4 to May 5, when the Eta Aquarids begin. That shower will be best viewed from the southern tropics, but will still offer a few thrills for people in the northern reaches.

Souled_Out

Will it be possible to see this in Southern Hemisphere countries such as Australia or New Zealand?

PewPewPokemon

I’m sure if they really tried, that website could squeeze in a few more pop ups

andimacg

So if the comet only comes every ~415 years, how is there enough material left to have a meteor shower every year? Is there just tons of debris sitting in the same spot that we pass through every year?

throwaway112798

So, 2300 on the 22nd or 0100 on the 23rd???

Or 0100 on the 22nd??

jfourty

Taiwan’s Legislature clears bill to upgrade national space agency

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Remember: America’s space program started out using ICBM boosters to send satellites (and people) into orbit.

A good space program gives you the knowledge not only to launch useful satellites (comms, weather, broadcast) but to launch ballistic weapons. EVERYONE launching today started off this way. According to Wikipedia, 11 countries currently have the ability to launch domestically developed satellites on domestically built boosters into orbit.

Taiwan, at this moment, only has suborbital domestic boosters (they work with India for orbital launches). So this expansion is the next step to build their own orbital capability. By sticking to small rockets, Taiwan stays under China’s radar, while growing native knowledge and manufacturing.

So…spending money on space science isn’t any waste.

Reasonable-Detail282

Breaking news from China, “China’s legislature clears the bill to upgrade national space agency.”

RayDizzle4Shizzle

More likely to slow things down rather than increase it. Another layer of red tape and filing fees to try and get things done.

JamesrSteinhaus

If I – a layman, unqualified Redditor – were them, I’d be spending more on coastal defenses.

4thDevilsAdvocate

Sci-fi becomes real life: NASA doctor ‘holoports’ to International Space Station

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Please state the nature of the medical emergency!

ANTristotle

This is augmented reality, not a hologram as many of us know it.

They need to be less sensational in their headlines.

ANALSPELUNKER9000

On Nov 4th 2008 Jessica Yellin was “hologramed” into a CNN news station with near flawless picture. They actually “dumbed down” the projection quality to make people more comfortable with how realistic it was. Cool stuff though.

Bad_Lazarus

…”Forget it! I’m just gonna walk.” – Mel Brooks in Space Balls

Open-Cryptographer83

Man, I am trying so hard to not hate NASA, but they are making it nearly impossible with press releases like this one.

Organic_Current6585

A once-in-a-decade report was just released, outlining what the future of NASA planetary exploration will look like. I read all 760 pages so you don’t have to:

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Random tidbits

* If you think Venus feels missing from this report, you’re not wrong. But that’s likely because last summer three new Venus missions were approved: VERITAS (NASA) and EnVision (ESA), which will orbit and map Venus & search for ongoing eruptions, and DaVinci (NASA) which will descend through the atmosphere and take a bajillion pictures of Venus’s surface. So there’s no real reason for a flagship-class Venus mission anymore
* The same goes for asteroid missions because a bunch of them were approved a few years ago (Psyche, Lucy, JANUS)
* A bunch of other flagship concepts were evaluated but deemed less important or more technically risky than UOP and Orbilander: a Mercury lander, a Neptune orbiter, a Europa lander, and a Venus flagship. Perhaps they will get their turn next decadal survey

My thoughts:

* I am super happy with the selections, especially the selection of Uranus Orbiter and Probe *alongside* Mars Sample Return (I feared it would be one or the other). It is about damn time we went back to the ice giants
* Gotta say, my predictions in the earlier post were pretty damn good. I predicted the top two flagships would be #1 a Neptune orbiter and #2 Enceladus Orbilander, and ended up being correct except Uranus instead of Neptune
* I think we are seeing a pretty fundamental shift here. Since the last decadal survey, astrobiology has grown to become the dominant scientific objective and that’s awesome. We’re also seeing the beginning of a long-term shift away from Mars, and towards the outer solar system
* I think the Endurance-A rover is a brilliant idea and will complement the Artemis missions super well for a mission that’s relatively cheap (in comparison to the Artemis landings!)
* my brain hurts after reading a technical report for 2.5 hours

Pluto_and_Charon

Damn, I thought for sure Uranus was gonna get passed up for Neptune, but to me the Uranian system is more interesting, the main planet with its unique axial tilt and weather patterns and the Frankenstein world of Miranda is what makes it more interesting, though Triton is hard to beat. Good to see that it’s included in New Frontiers though!

StrangeTangerine1525

This is pretty neat to see in a condensed version. The universe is gonna get that much cooler as we expand into the stars!

Shylo132

Thanks for the summary, awesome to know a little about what the future may hold for Earth discovering its siblings.

I appreciate you keeping the overview short too, I can’t do 760 pages without an audiobook version.

thePopefromTV

>Enceladus Multiple Flyby – if the budget isn’t available to do Enceladus Orbilander, this could be a cheaper alternative (but wont be as comprehensive and wont include a lander)

This is the one I really care about. I’m convinced Enceladus is where we can find life. If it is in our solar system, that’s where it is. But I don’t have a billion dollars or a PhD so I’ll just shout from the sidelines.

Thank you for your write up!

LastExitToSalvation

Webb Space Telescope Is Now One of the Coldest Objects In Space

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This is crazy! It makes sense, but 6 degrees Kelvin is about as cold as it can possibly be. That they needed to make coolers for a telescope that’s already colder then anything else, is wild. I can’t wait for what develops from this!

mojo276

I hope the author is proud of the last line “Now that it’s at optimal temperature, Webb’s MIRI is ready to provide some of the coolest cosmic images Earth has ever seen.”

Cell1pad

I’m so blue balled waiting for the images and discoveries this will find. I can’t wait!

QueanLaQueafa

Awesome, can’t wait to see the void in better detail.

Thorpester

I am more disappointed that the site is using Fahrenheit as a measurement. Am I the only one??

anomandris

Alien Life on Europa Could Be More Likely and Easier to Find Near the Surface

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How exciting would it be to find life in our own local star system. The implications of that would be astounding.

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

I’ve been waiting for decades to see the search for life on Europa. Let’s get this inter-planetary party start!

der_duh

If intelligence life was in an ocean below the frozen crust, I’d imagine it would be just as difficult to get to the surface like it was for us to get into orbit. That life once on the surface would be seeing the stars and planets for the first time.

_zerokarma_

A Helicopter Will Try to Catch a Rocket Booster in Midair | Rocket Lab’s first-of-its-kind recovery attempt could rescue booster from watery grave

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>Helicopter Will Try to Catch a Rocket Booster

Has rotors. Imma need a diagram on this catch.

jfrorie

It’s hilarious to me that people are more skeptical of just grabbing it than actually having it land on its own. Despite the fact that we’ve landed boosters many times now, it’s way more complex than snagging it while it falls.

Ape_Togetha_Strong

We can reduce cost with a few human sacrifices here and there.

IAmAThing420YOLOSwag

Sending a probe to Uranus labeled as top priority by space science community

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I know it’s tempting, but please remember Rule 10: No low-effort/meme/joke/troll/insult comments. Let’s celebrate that NASA might *finally* be returning to the ice giants – by the time UOP arrives in 2045, sixty years will have passed since the last visit in 1986 (!!) – without resorting to childish jokes

Pluto_and_Charon

Must not … break rules … for stupid joke …

>The space science community thinks the time is ripe to study Uranus in depth

Oh … it’s ok, the article made it for me.

>Additionally, when scientists look at planets outside our Solar System, ice giants like Uranus and Neptune seem to dominate the Universe. And yet, they are the only main planets in our Solar System that we’ve never orbited.

This makes a great deal of sense, too, all kidding aside.

Fred_Evil

Top priority? What did they find? What has changed in the last couple of days…?

suarezd1

Renaming it to Caelus should be top priority. We deserve to have planets with matching names

psychord-alpha

Uranus is beautiful and would love to see it and its moons up close.

sgrams04