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The Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight. Here's How To Watch

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockApr 21 2021, 14:55 UTC
Meteor Shower

Image Credit: jgolby/Shutterstock.com

Grab a warm blanket and head outside tonight, because the Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the morning of April 22. The Lyrid shower is occasionally one of the most prolific. At its height there can be 90 meteors per hour, but that only happens every 60 years or so and we have still two decades before that peak comes around again.

So, while it won’t be a shower for the ages, tonight you can expect to see around 10 meteors per hour. However, as this is one of the first meteor showers of the year, anyone who loves shooting stars will be raring to go. 

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The best time to see them is between midnight and dawn, and, as always, are clearer with a dark sky so avoid any light pollution. They will appear to come from the direction of the Lyra constellation, from which they take their name. Luckily Vega, an incredibly bright star, is in this constellation so should help you find it.

The meteors are the leftover debris of Comet Thatcher, as Earth crosses the orbit of the comet. This celestial body comes close to the Sun every 415 years (next time will be in 2276), which heats up the comet's surface, releasing dust, and particles, replenishing the debris that follows it. As Earth crosses this path, some of the debris burns up in our atmosphere, creating "shooting stars", or meteors. 

The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest reported meteors showers. A spectacular meteoric event from 687 BCE is reported in the Zuo Zhuan, an ancient Chinese narrative history. The text describes the Lyrids peak that year as "stars fell like rain." This meteor shower is also mentioned in ancient Australian Indigenous astronomy.

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The Northern Hemisphere is the best place to see the event, looking northeast any time between moonrise and the hour before dawn. People in the Southern Hemisphere will still get a chance to spot some shooting stars, though a bit later, most likely low in the sky just before dawn on April 22, looking north.


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