With each new season it seems as if there comes a different celestial event or astronomical phenomenon. All four seasons have at least one meteor shower that occurs. With our departure from winter and our entrance into spring the Lyrids Meteor Shower can be seen.
The Lyrids Meteor Shower will be appearing in our skies from April 16 to 25, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
A meteor shower happens when a number of meteoroids or space debris enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, creating meteors.
“Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids. When comets come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them,” says NASA. “Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.”
The shower is expected to peak the night between April 22 and 23. A peaked meteor shower is when the most particles are visible. During this time, the Earth is closest to the particles of a trail left by a comet which makes them the most visible to the human eye.
According to NASA, the Lyrids Meteor Shower is among some of the oldest known showers.
“With records going back for 2,700 years or more,” the administration says. “It is produced by dust particles left behind by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861.”
As for viewing the Lyrids, NASA has outlined some tips on their website to put yourself in the most optimal position to see them.
“The Lyrids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the dark hours (after moonset and before dawn). Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair,” says the administration. “Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.”
It is important to find an area that is as dark as possible and as far away from light as you can get. Light pollution from cities and street lights — which the administration said to stay away from — will prevent not only the shower from being visible, but will prevent a clear view of the night sky in general.
The shower should be viewable the whole night, but some patience will be required as it takes some time for your eyes to be attuned to the darkness. At its peak activity the Lyrids will produce around 20 meteors per hour, most traveling at a speed of 30 miles per second. Most other nights the shower will produce anywhere from 10 to 20 meteors an hour.
If you plan to watch the Lyrids the night between April 22 and 23, pack everything you’d need to stay warm and relaxed and hope for a clear night!