This month, the annual Lyrid meteor shower will reach maximum activity between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. local time in the Northern hemisphere on the morning of April 21-22.
The radiant point of this shower is near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Lyre (or Harp), hence the name “Lyrids.” But you don’t need to know where Lyra is to enjoy the show — you can spot the meteors in any part of the night sky.
The source of the meteor shower is the Comet Thatcher. Every year in April, Earth passes through through Thatcher’s dusty tail of comet debris, some particles of which are no larger than a grain of sand. When they hit the Earth’s atmosphere traveling at 110,000 mph, they disintegrate as “fireball” streaks of light that linger for minutes.
The Lyrid meteor shower has the distinction of being among the oldest of known meteor showers with records dating back over 2,500 years.
What To Look For?
Lyrid meteors tend to be bright and often leave trails. About 10-20 meteors are usually visible per hour, at peak. Occasionally, surges can bring as much as 100 meteors per hour, but this is rare and not easy to predict. The Lyrids are most prolific right before dawn.
Best Way to View Meteor Showers:
The best way to watch for meteors is to find a spot with a clear view of the sky and not affected by light pollution. Warm clothing and a blanket are advisable, as late night temperatures can be chilly. Enjoy!
Update for 2016: Usually when meteor showers occur so close to a full Moon (April’s Pink Moon will be astronomically full on the 22nd) they can be “drowned out” by the Moon’s glare. However, this Moon may not be as bright, so look to the northeast in the late evening and you might catch a few!