Watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower Light up the Night Sky This Weekend
Do April showers bring May flowers? Perhaps these might not be the showers you imagine, but you get the idea. If you are looking for something to do on the this long Easter weekend besides watching another episode of Game of Thrones, why not check out The Lyrid Meteor Shower? Like clockwork, the Lyrid Meteor Shower is usually active between April 16 and the 25th every year. But, first, what is the Lyrid Meteor Shower?
The Lyrid Meteor Shower
Now the Lyrid meteor shower is nothing new. In fact, the meteor shower has the honor of being among the oldest known meteor showers, with records of the shower going back well over 2,500 years. The people of ancient China witnessed the yearly light show, describing it as raindrops in the night sky during 687 B.C.
However what is a meteor shower? For the uninitiated, a meteor shower is a common celestial event in which a number of meteors streak across the night sky, sometimes thousands at a time, creating a beautiful shower of lights. The streaking lights are caused by the debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories.
The Comet Thatcher is a source of the Lyrid meteors. Each year around this time planet earth crosses the orbital path of the comet. Yet, interestingly no scientist has snapped a photo of the comet due to the fact that its orbit around the sun takes 415 years. The last time Comet Thatcher paid us a visit is in 1861 and is not expected to come back until 2276.
Nevertheless, this comet is the origin of the Lyrid Meteor Shower. Small parts of the comet break off the celestial object launching themselves directly at the Earth’s upper atmosphere at 177,000 km/h creating the light show, you are going to witness this weekend.
Where and How to see the Lyrid Meteor Shower
The beauty of checking out a meteor shower is that you do not need any special equipment or any crazy scientific skills. In fact, all you need is the right location, a clear night sky and some sort of meteor shower map to keep you pointed in the right direction.
Compared to other meteor showers Lyrid is not as high volume, but meteor counts do range from 10–20 per hour. You may be at a small disadvantage as the moon will still be nearly full on Sunday and Monday. However, get away as far as you can from light pollution and find a place that gives you the widest vantage point in the night sky.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this week on both Saturday and Sunday night. Try using this Interactive Meteor Shower Sky Map to help time your show and happy watching.
Astronomers identify the "poor old heart" of the Milky Way, finding a group of stars left over from the earliest history of our galaxy.