Don’t miss the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower

Composite image of Lyrid and not-Lyrid meteors over New Mexico from April 2012. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Daniel Moser

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 23 with up to 15 meteors per hour.

The hammam is considered one of the oldest in history, dating back 2,700 years. Lyrid effervescence remains difficult to predict, making regular observations crucial to improving the models. To observe Lyrids, find a dark place away from city lights, allow the eyes to adjust for 30 minutes, and avoid bright screens. Meteors will peak at 10 to 15 per hour during the early morning of the 23rd, but lower rates can be seen on adjacent nights.

This year’s Lyrid meteor shower will peak in the predawn hours of April 23. On average, the shower can produce up to 15 meteors per hour under ideal viewing conditions. Lyrids occur each year in mid-April, when Earth crosses the trail of debris left by Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. These comet fragments burn up when they hit Earth’s atmosphere and produce this shower of shooting stars. The dove got its name from the constellation Lyra, which is the point in the sky where meteors appear. Unlike the Perseids or Geminids, the Lyrids are not known for their bright fireballs. What makes it special is its unpredictability.

Lyrid meteors from the constellation Lyra

Lyrid Meteors from the constellation Lyra. Credit and copyright: Petr Horálek

The first record of a Lyrid meteor shower dates back 2,700 years, making it one of the oldest in history. Researchers searching for ancient records have found descriptions of major Lyrid eruptions. For example, a note written by the French bishop Gregory of Tours in April 582 AD states, “At Soissons, we see heaven on fire.” There was also an outburst of Laird visible over the United States in 1803. An article in the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser describes the shower: “From one o’clock until three o’clock those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the sky, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky missiles.” . The last Lyrid eruption was in 1982, when observers recorded 75 meteors per hour in Florida.

The common theme here is that Lyrid outbursts are surprises. Unlike some other showers, meteorite researchers can’t predict Lyrid outbursts either. This is why it is important to make observations every year so that their activity models can be improved.

On April 21, the Lyrid meteor shower peaked in Earth’s sky. while[{” attribute=””>NASA allsky cameras were looking up, astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station trained his video camera on Earth below. Video footage has revealed breathtaking images of meteors ablating — or burning up — over Earth at night. This video is a composite of 310 still frames from that evening. Credit: NASA/JSC/Don Pettit

How can you best observe the Lyrids? After 10:30 p.m. local time on the night of April 22, find a dark place away from city lights with open sky free of clouds and look straight up. It will take about 30 minutes for your eyes to get acclimated to the dark. Don’t look at your cell phone – the bright light from its screen will interrupt your night vision. You will begin to see Lyrids, and as the night progresses the meteors will appear more often, reaching 10 to 15 per hour in the pre-dawn hours of the 23rd. You can see Lyrids on the night before and after the peak, but the rates will be lower, maybe five per hour or so.

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