Meteors Might Put on Some Kind of Show
But lower your expectations about what you will actually see this weekend.
Who doesn’t like to watch a good meteor shower? The Lyrids, which occur every April when the Earth passes through the orbit of the comet called Thatcher, are expected this weekend.
Bruce Abels, community relations director of the Fox Valley Astronomical Society, said if you really are determined to see a sky show, go outside with “a blanket, a comfortable chaise lounge chair, a pot of coffee and your dog and wait.”
But don’t expect to see much in this area, he warned.
You need luck, he said. “You have to be in the right place at the right time. This isn’t an event worth the effort.”
If you are lucky you may see some shooting stars. Estimates vary from as low as two to as many as 20 per hour. The moon will be new, which means it will not be bright and will not interfere with visibility. So, the sky will be dark. But you will have city and suburban lights to obscure matters and an uncooperative weather condition. At least a 56 percent cloud cover is predicted for Sunday starting after midnight. And, if anything is spotted, it could be between 2-5 a.m.
“They’re just not interesting,” Abels said of the Lyrids.
Dr. Mark Hammergren, astronomer for Chicago’s Alder Planetarium, agrees. “The Lyrids fall onto the ‘B’ list of meteor showers,” he told Patch. “They are not a top performer.”
And, generally, urban lights dim the chances of seeing meteors, he said, adding, “Nowadays you have to drive at least an hour or more, maybe to central or western Illinois.”
If you do drive far away, Hammergren predicts that 10-20 Lyrid meteors may be seen in an hour, if it is not cloudy. This pales in comparison to the 50-100 Perseid meteors that can be seen every August, he said.
Rick Gering, public relations officer for the Naperville Astronomical Association, said the group is not planning an event for the Lyrids. The group, which has members from throughout DuPage County and the area, invites the public to bring telescopes at 7:30 p.m. April 26 to the Naperville Riverwalk for a night of sky gazing. The meeting place is on Jackson between Eagle and Main.
If you want to sky gaze, the Adler’s website suggests you look for the planet Venus, which is now at its brightest for the year. It’s easy to spot in the western sky shortly after sunset. It will not be not far from a slim waxing crescent moon on April 24. Venus sets in the west-northwest around 11 p.m., Central Daylight time.
The Fox Valley Astronomical Society holds public star parties. The next one is May 12 at Peck Farm in Geneva. Click here for details.
As for that spectacular unexpected shooting star that lit up the sky at about 8:20 p.m. April 11 for about 12 seconds—it had nothing to do with the Lyrids, Hammergren said.