(Sen) - NASA scientists are teaming up with amateur astronomers and an astronaut aboard the space station in an attempt to photograph the Lyrid meteor shower in 3D.
If successful, it will be the first ever 3D photography of a meteor shower taken from both Earth and space.
The meteor shower peaks on the night of 21-22 April, which luckily also coincides with a New Moon, ensuring dark skies for those who can get away from street lights and clouds.
The peak of the shower will result in 15 to 20 meteors per hour, and it is also possible that there may be a fireball or two lurking among these. The meteor count can rise if the Earth passes through a particularly dense region of debris, such as in 1982 when the recorded meteor rate was 90 per hour.
"Even though the Lyrids are not noted for spectacular rates, the combination of a New Moon and a very favourable viewing geometry from the International Space Station (ISS) presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously image shower meteors from above and below," said Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.
The Lyrids occur every year as a result of the Earth passing through debris left by Comet Thatcher, and the shower has been occurring for at least 2600 years.
Space enthusiasts are planning to simultaneously image the meteor shower from the ground, a research balloon, and the International Space Station. Don Pettit, who is an experienced astrophotographer, will be in charge of the camera on the ISS.
The research balloon is being launched by a group of school students, and it will float 40 kilometres above the Earth in the stratosphere. The balloon carries a special meteor camera that was designed by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.
Catching meteor showers on film is a game of chance. Trying to catch the shower with multiple cameras is going to be even harder, but that fact isn’t going to deter the group from trying. In fact, Cooke believes that there is a one in six chance of the ISS and the wide-field ground cameras imaging the meteors at the same time to create the 3D images. Cooke hopes that this experiment will lay the groundwork for future meteor observatories that will orbit the Earth.
Anyone wishing to participate in the experiment can help by downloading the Meteor Counter for iPhones, which counts the number of meteors and sends the data to NASA. Cooke and his colleagues will also be available to chat to the puclic online during the night.