This weekend, NASA scientists, amateur astronomers, and an astronaut on board the International Space Station will attempt the first-ever 3D photography of meteors from Earth and space.
"The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 21-22," says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "We’re going to try to photograph some of these 'shooting stars' simultaneously from ground stations, from a research balloon in the stratosphere, and from the space station."
Lyrid meteors come from Comet Thatcher. Every year in late April Earth passes through a stream of debris from the old comet, which has been bringing Lyrid meteors to our planet for at least 2600 years. Specks of Thatcher’s dust hit the top of atmosphere at 110,000 mph and disintegrate in a flurry of meteors. Most years, the shower produces about 15 to 20 Lyrids per hour.
This is a good year to look for Lyrids because the Moon will be new when the shower peaks. Dark skies favor sightings both from Earth and from Earth orbit.
"Even though the Lyrids are not noted for spectacular rates, the combination of a New Moon and a very favorable viewing geometry from the International Space Station (ISS) presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously image shower meteors from above and below," says Cooke.