It is time for the annual Lyrid meteor shower and this year it will be better than usual. The peak of this spectacle will be the night of April 22 and will continue through the dark morning hours of the 23rd. The moon will be in its waxing crescent phase and will set around midnight local daylight time, leaving the prime viewing hours before dawn moon-free.
Most meteor showers occur when the Earth passes into the debris trail left behind by comets. As the Earth rounds into these trails the particles enter into our atmosphere, burn up from friction, and produce a streaming column of light. The Lyrid meteor shower is one such event, caused by the Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1) that orbits the sun every 415 years.
This year, the Lyric meteor shower can be seen from April 16 through April 25. The peak viewing times will occur in the hours before dawn on April 23.
The evaluation of meteor showers is measured by their hourly rates. The Lyrid meteor shower typically delivers 15 to 20 meteors an hour at their peak viewing times.
Where is the best place to view meteors? To get the darkest skies for your meteor viewing pleasure you usually have to go about 30 miles out from any city lights.
To find this shower of meteors aim your gaze towards the constellation of Lyra, the harp. The constellation’s brightest star is Vega and it will pass nearly overhead just before dawn.
You’ll need no special eye-wear or optical equipment to view the Lyrids, just a dark sky and possibly a lawn chair and/or blanket.
Keep in mind that even though they are called the Lyrids, the best place to really look is roughly a third of the way across the sky from the radiant, or, the point of which the meteors appear to emanate.