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Find the constellation Hercules. Maybe more Lyrid meteors?

The bright stars Vega in the constellation Lyra and Arcturus in the constellation Bootes are located on either side of Hercules.

The bright stars Vega in the constellation Lyra and Arcturus in the constellation Bootes are located on either side of Hercules.

Two things to watch for tonight. First, during the evening hours, why not try locating one of the coolest constellations up there? The constellation Hercules the Kneeling Giant can be seen ascending in the east-northeast on these spring evenings. Second, although the Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the morning of April 22, you might still spot some Lyrids streaking along during the night of April 22 into the morning of April 23. Follow the links inside to learn more.

MESSENGER completes 3,000th orbit of Mercury, sets mark for closest approach

This artist's impression shows NASA's Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft from the instrument side. The instruments on the Mercury orbiter are shielded by a ceramic cloth sunshade. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

This artist’s impression shows NASA’s Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft from the instrument side. The instruments on the Mercury orbiter are shielded by a ceramic cloth sunshade. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

On April 20, the MESSENGER spacecraft completed its 3,000th orbit of the planet Mercury. The craft is now closer to Mercury than any spacecraft has been before; it is orbiting at an altitude of 199 kilometers (123.7 miles) above Mercury’s searing surface.

Everything you need to know: Lyrid meteor shower

View larger. | Simon Waldram in the Canary Islands caught this Lyrid meteor on the night of April 20-21, 2014.  Thank you, Simon!

Simon Waldram in the Canary Islands caught this Lyrid meteor on the night of April 20-21, 2014. Thank you, Simon!

It’s time for the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower! The peak of this shower will fall on the morning of Earth Day, April 22, 2014. The greatest number of meteors should fall during the few hours before dawn. But you might want to watch in late evening, too, because a last quarter moon, rising in the middle of the night, intrudes on the Lyrid shower in 2014. These meteors tend to be bright. Some may overcome the moonlight. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Lyrid meteor shower: April’s shooting stars!

Make a #GlobalSelfie with NASA on Earth Day, April 22

GlobalSelfieLogo_verticalstack

Step outside and take a picture of yourself wherever you are on Earth and post it to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. NASA will use the photos to create a mosaic image of Earth.

Arctic sea ice maximum in 2014 fifth lowest on record

Arctic sea ice maximum on March 21, 2014.  Image via NASA.

Arctic sea ice maximum on March 21, 2014. Image via NASA.

Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for this year on March 21, 2014, according to a report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The extent of Arctic sea ice this year was the fifth lowest on record, these scientists say. Surprised?

How do astronomers know the mass of Jupiter?

This true-color simulated view of Jupiter is composed of 4 images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 7, 2000.

This true-color simulated view of Jupiter is composed of 4 images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on December 7, 2000.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and boasts of more than twice the mass (heaviness) of all the other solar system planets, dwarf planets, moons and asteroids combined. But how do astronomers even begin to know Jupiter’s mass?

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

Mike O'Neal posted this on the EarthSky Facebook page today (April 22).  He wrote, 'Had mostly cloudy sky, but did see some beautiful ones between the breaks.'

Mike O’Neal posted this shot of a Lyrid meteor on the EarthSky Facebook page at last year’s shower, on April 22, 2013. He wrote, ‘Had mostly cloudy sky, but did see some beautiful ones between the breaks.’

It’s time for the Lyrid meteor shower! Watch late night April 21 through dawn April 22. The waning moon interferes when it rises in the middle of the night, but the Lyrids tend to be bright. You might see some streaking along in bright moonlight.

Lyrid meteors fly in predawn moonlight on April 22

Lyrid meteor (left side of photo) and star trails from EarthSky Facebook friend Sean Parker Photography.  Visit Sean's Facebook page to see more of his photos.  View larger.

View larger. | Lyrid meteor (left side of photo) and star trails from Sean Parker Photography.

The 2014 Lyrid meteor shower will pepper the night on the evening of April 21 until before dawn April 22. The predawn hours are typically best – and April 22, Earth Day morning, is the peak this year. You might also want to try the evening hours this year, though, because the light of the last quarter moon, rising at midnight, will interfere.

EarthSky’s top 10 tips for meteor-watchers

From EarthSky Facebook friend Guy Livesay. He wrote, ' Didn't see many Lyrids on the 21st or 22nd in Eastern NC. This is from the 21st. There's actually 2 in this shot very close together.'

From EarthSky Facebook friend Guy Livesay, taken in April 2013. He wrote, ‘Didn’t see many Lyrids on the 21st or 22nd in Eastern NC. This is from the 21st. There’s actually 2 in this shot very close together.’


You might see a lot or you might not see many, but if you stay in the house, you won’t see any. Tips for getting the most from the Lyrid meteor shower … or any meteor shower.

Exploring planet dandelion

Photo credit: Kat Baker

View larger. | Photo credit: Kat Baker

Photo by Kat Baker. Thank you Kat!