As we turn the corner into the end of April, it means stargazers can once again enjoy the wonders of the night sky with one of the first, more well-known meteor showers of the calendar year. The Lyrid meteor shower is back and will peak on April 21 and 22. The Lyrids are associated with Comet Thatcher, a comet discovered back in 1861. Folks have been enjoying this meteor shower for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest meteor showers.
Meteor showers occur when comets break apart leaving behind dust. As Earth travels within its orbit, it enters these debris fields. When the dust, or bits of meteor, enter Earth’s atmosphere, they disintegrate. When we look at meteors, we are seeing the combustion of that meteor and the colorful trails it leaves behind.
The Lyrid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Lyra as that is the direction the meteors appear to come from, also known as the radiant. However, you can view these meteors from any direction in the night sky. The Lyrid meteor shower is known for typically seeing 10 to 15 meteors per hour. It is important to find a cloudless night and away from city lights. Give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness.
With a full moon around the corner at the end of the month, it will be important to look up when the moon rises and sets to give yourself the best window with minimal light pollution in the night sky. Viewing during the peak of this meteor shower looks less than favorable for us as we will have a storm system rolling through which will keep clouds locked into place. But, that does not mean you will not be able to enjoy them. This meteor shower will be visible from April 16 to the 25, so keep an eye out for some clear nights for best viewing chances.
There are other well-known meteor showers stargazers have the opportunity to look forward to as we continue through our spring and summer months with another round at the end of the year.
— Meteorologist Erika Paige