Stargazing: The best time to watch the Lyrid meteor shower

19 April, 2017, 11:13 | Author: Eloise Marshall
  • Stargazing: The best time to watch the Lyrid meteor shower

The annual Lyrid meteor shower is under way, and will reach its peak in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, April 22.

The Lyrids, one of the oldest known meteor showers, are produced by debris from the comet Thatcher that takes almost 415 years to orbit around the Sun.

In the case of the Lyrid meteor shower, Lyrids appear to originate from a radiant in the Lyra constellation.

Also, the Lyrids are known for producing fireballs.

In 2017 there will be nine major meteor showers, but not all of them will provide great viewing.

The light from the almost full moon makes it hard to spot numerous dimmer meteors, reducing the number of meteors that onlookers can spot.

No need to use binoculars or telescopes to see the meteor shower as they will constrain the view - simply look up and wait for the shooting stars to appear. NASA says 10 to 20 Lyric meteors per hour can usually be observed during the shower's peak. As Earth passes through that region of the solar system where the comet's debris is spread out, the interaction with Earth's upper atmosphere causes the vaporization of dust, leading to a colorful meteor shower.

If you really want to witness a meteor storm, watch out for the Leonid meteor shower in mid-November.

The National Weather Service in State College reports that the night of April 21 - Friday night - is expected to be mostly cloudy with temperatures dropping to a chilly 36 degrees. With the moonlight so bright, you're only going to catch the longest and brightest meteors anyway, so it's far better to look out over the full sky. You don't have to do this to see the meteors as they streak across the sky in all directions, but it's fun to try to find the origin of them.

Friday night's Lyrid meteor shower may be the best meteor shower for the Northern Hemisphere until the peak of the Orionid meteor shower in late October.

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