Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday, April 22nd, with a display of 10 to 20 meteors per hour over the northern hemisphere. Occasionally, Earth passes through a dense region of the comet's tail and rates surge five- to ten-fold. In 1982, for instance, observers were surprised by an outburst of 90 Lyrids per hour. Because Thatcher's tail has never been mapped in detail, the outbursts are unpredictable and could happen again at any time. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours before dawn on Wednesday morning April 22nd.
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LUNAR OCCULTATION OF VENUS: Even if the Lyrids fizzle, there is still something wonderful to see on Wednesday morning, April 22nd. The crescent Moon and Venus are going to have a close encounter of jaw-dropping beauty. Look low and to the east just before sunrise. Observers in western parts of North America will see a lunar occultation: Venus will disappear behind the Moon's limb just after 5 am PDT and reappear again an hour or so later.
Details may be found in this Science@NASA story: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/17apr_lyrids.htm
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