The Meteors of Spring: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky
There’s so much poetic harmony between meteor showers and the spring, falling through the sky just when the blossoms are rushing toward the sun and the bees are rushing toward the blossoms and everything is humming along to the greater mystery of warmth and light. No wonder then, at least for the Storyteller’s Night Sky, that the first meteor shower of the season emanates from the region of the constellation Lyra, the musical instrument of the ancient sun god Apollo, and his mother, Leto.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower is active From April 16th until the 30th, with an overnight peak Wednesday, April 21st, when the Moon is a waxing gibbous, misshapen and sloping westward well beyond the midnight hour.
The trick with a meteor shower is to look for it when the constellation that bears its name is highest. In this case, the constellation is Lyra, with the unmistakably bright blue-white star Vega. Vega rises around 9 pm, blazing a trail through the night from northeast to southwest, scattering stars like melodies across the sky as she heralds the season of warmth for us in the northern hemisphere. The Lyrids are known to produce fireballs, even though they don’t leave persistent trails of star dust.
The lyre that lends its name to the constellation belonged to the ancient greek goddess Leto, musician to the Olympic gods. She was consort to Zeus before Hera, and she bore the twins Apollo and Artemis, sun and moon. The myth of Leto relates how her childbirth was delayed until Iris, goddess of the rainbow, was gifted a necklace woven through with the golden threads of destiny, for use in persuading Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth, to make haste.
It’s easy to imagine such a tale in the northern spring, when warmth and blossom seem delayed by stubborn cold. We can all help out by sending wishes, music, and poetry, into the night.