Speed Reads


The Lyrid meteors are falling tonight. Watch the shower online.

CC by: Mike Lewinski

Early Tuesday morning, from midnight until dawn, is the peak of the annual Lyrid meteor showers, not one of the major meteor showers but a nice celestial show if you have a clear sky and enjoy spending time outside in the spring night air. If you have overcast skies or prefer staying inside, NASA and Slooh have you covered — or at least they are trying. NASA is live-streaming the Lyrid meteor showers — so named because they appear to originate from the constellation Lyra the Harp — from its observatory in Huntsville, Ala.

"Clouds are moving into our area, so the 'blank grayish box' effect may persist," NASA says, somewhat sheepishly. "We'll cross our fingers for clearing skies. For your listening pleasure, that's Third Rock Radio on the Ustream feed." So there's that:

Slooh is broadcasting from the Canary Islands, where the skies appear to be clear. Astronomer Bob Berman, who's narrating Slooh's meteor show, says he expects a meteor every three to four minutes. If not, he has interesting commentary about the Lyrids, and meteors in general.

If you're confused about the difference between meteors and meteorites, Space.com has a helpful explainer. --Peter Weber

Meteor showers are created when pieces of space debris strike Earth's upper atmosphere. The bits of dust and rock heat up to extreme temperatures and glow, creating the streaks seen during meteor showers... When in space, bits of space material — like the debris that creates the Lyrid meteor shower — are known as meteoroids. As they streak through the atmosphere, they are called meteors and any bits of rock that make it to Earth's surface are labeled meteorites. [Space.com]