Get Ready for the Lyrids Meteor Shower: Peak Viewing Times and Tips for Stargazers
The Lyrids meteor shower is set to peak late on Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning, according to NASA. The shower is known for its fast and bright meteors, which can produce fireballs. Typically, around 10-20 meteors can be seen per hour during the peak. However, the Lyrids have been known to surprise stargazers with as many as 100 meteors per hour, with the last occurrence of this happening in 1982. The Lyrids are named after the constellation Lyra, which is closest to their radiant, where the meteors appear to originate. Observers in the northern hemisphere will be able to spot Lyra almost directly overhead around midnight, while those in southern latitudes will see Lyra lower in the northern part of the sky.
The Lyrids are caused by leftover particles of Comet Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. Earth passes through the stream of debris left in the inner Solar System by the comet every April, causing the meteor shower. The Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers in recorded human history, with the earliest sightings dating back to 687 BCE in China.
To best view the Lyrids, NASA advises stargazers to set up a comfortable blanket or lawn chair far from city lights and to watch during the dark hours between moonset and dawn. It takes at least half an hour for eyes to adjust enough to see meteors, so patience is key. The best time to view the Lyrids is after the moonset and before sunrise when the sky is at its darkest. The shower is expected to last until dawn.
This year the Lyrids will be active from 15 to 29 April, with the peak occurring from late evening on 21 April until dawn on 22 April, according to EarthSky. The shower's peak comes just after the new moon that occurred in the early hours of 20 April, creating optimal darkness for viewing meteors. The shower is expected to produce 15-20 meteors per hour at its peak and will be visible worldwide.
For the best viewing experience, observers should make sure to view the shower somewhere away from artificial light and give themselves plenty of time to let their eyes adjust to the darkness. It is also advisable to look in all directions, rather than near the radiant, to avoid making the meteors appear shorter. By following these tips, stargazers should be able to see one meteor every five minutes in an area away from light pollution.
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