Apr 21/22 Meteors – The Peak of the Lyrids and a Cloud Occultation

Yesterday morning the sky showed a double feature, the Lyrid meteor shower and a lunar occultation of Venus. I was outside to see and hopefully get some pictures of both.

I’ve never seen a lunar occultation, or a planet or asteroid occultation for that matter. And I still haven’t seen one. All I saw were the clouds that occulted the Moon and Venus. About 15 minutes before Venus was set to disappear, the clouds rolled in. At least I got to see the awesome sight of a very close Venus and Moon as they rose over the horizon.

Bob Lunsford, on the other hand, got some great video of the disappearance and reappearance of Venus. I’ll try and post those videos in the next day or two.

Luckily it was clear enough to observe the Lyrids. I began my watch at 3 am. Right off the bat I observed a bright Lyrid. A minute later I saw an even brighter one. Within 15 minutes I counted 5 Lyrids and 1 Sporadic. So I’m think “this is pretty good, the Lyrids must be real active this year”. Then things ground to a halt. It was another 22 minutes till I spotted another meteor (a Sporadic) and 50! minutes till the next Lyrid rocketed into view.

Lulls in the action are common when watching meteor showers. Unfortunately, they make me question myself. Why am I out here? Am I too tired to see the meteors? Or am I just missing them? Luckily the meteors do come back and the last half hour of my observing saw 7 meteors. Whether the apparent non-random distribution of meteors is a statistical fluke or the result of clumpiness in the meteor stream is not know.

So after observing for 65 minutes (the same clouds that blocked my view of the occultation put an end to my Lyrid observing) I counted 14 meteors (7 LYR, 6 SPO and 1 ETA). Based on my observations and those of others (like my good friend Salvador Aguirre of Hermosillo), the IMO Live ZHR plot shows a peak Lyrid rate of 16 meteors per hour. This is typical for the Lyrids.

Though I only observed for an hour, my camera was running all night. It picked up 27 meteors, of which 13 were definitely Lyrids. A few of the 14 Sporadics were probably also Lyrids but not ID’d as such my the MetRec program. Last year my camera saw 16 Lyrids during with a bright Moon out so the Lyrids may have been more active last year. 27 meteors is the best single night for my camera system since the Quadrantid peak (107 meteors) on Jan 2/3.

Obs  Date (UT)   TotTime TOT SPO ANT PPU LYR ETA
TUS  2009-04-22  08h 42m  27  14  0   0   13  0

TUS – Camera in Tucson operated by Carl Hergenrother
SDG – Camera in San Diego operated by Bob Lunsford
TotTime – Total amount of time each camera looked for meteors
TOT – Total number of meteors detected
SPO – Sporadics (meteors not affiliated with any particular meteor shower)
ANT – Antihelions
PPU – Pi Puppids
LYR – Lyrids
ETA – Eta Aquarids

About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

One Response to Apr 21/22 Meteors – The Peak of the Lyrids and a Cloud Occultation

  1. Salvador Aguirre says:

    Hi Carl.
    The same thing happened at 11:12 hrs UT (2009-04-22UT) here in Hermosillo.. suspended my observation. 😦
    clouds made it impossible to continue the observation of LYR´s and Occultation of venus.
    I wish you good luck with ETA´s
    Best regards
    salvador aguirre

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