The Lyrid meteor shower is back for our viewing enjoyment. This year’s show is taking place from April 16 through April 25. However, the time for the best show will be before dawn on April 22 and April 23. Astronomers say that it will be possible to see as many as 10 to 20 meteors per hour, but there may be clusters of as many as 100 per hour possible. Interestingly, April 22 happens to be Earth Day, so what better reason to get out and enjoy Mother Nature?
Getting a Good View of the Lyrid Meteor Shower
The Lyrid meteor shower is the result of the Earth passing through the tail of the Comet Thatcher and is a yearly event, happening about the same time of the year in April. Most years, the peak of the shower occurs on April 22 and April 23 in the morning. As we pass through the tail, bits of rock, ice and dust are trapped by our gravity and are pulled down to earth, creating a spectacular display of shooting stars.
As with any attempt at stargazing, you must get away from the light pollution of the city. This means traveling probably a good hour or more to get away from urban development and obtain an unobstructed view of the sky. Although, the view will be best for Europeans this year, people in North America will be able to see a nice show, as well.
It isn’t necessary to use a telescope to see the Lyrid meteor shower as it will be easily seen with the naked eye. In fact, in may be counterintuitive as the meteors could appear most anywhere and your telescope may not be aimed in the right direction.
Where and When to Look
According to the American Meteor Society, the best viewing will be 00:30 EDT. The meteors burst out of what is called the “radiant.” The night of best viewing, the 22nd, the moon will only be a narrow crescent, perfect for viewing the Lyrid meteor shower. The radiant is located in the eastern Hercules constellation and seven degrees to the southwest of the Vega star, or Alpha Lyrae. Although this area is below the horizon during the evening, it will be at a good height just as the morning twilight begins and the moon has already set.
For those unable to travel away from the city, they can view the Lyrid meteor shower right from the comfort of home. Slooh Community Observatory will be streaming live content starting at 8:00 PM EDT on Wednesday, and there may be other observatories doing the same. Astronomer Bob Berman from Slooh states that this year’s display should be especially good because of the low-light crescent moon creating a great dark sky for viewing. He also stated that the Lyrid meteor shower is also known for providing some dazzling fireballs.
For your drive away from light pollution to see the Lyrid Meteor Shower this Earth Day: