Planet Talk

Lyrid Meteor Shower

The April Lyrids are a series of meteors that shower from April 16 to April 25 each year.

A meteor is a rocky or metallic body in outer space. Although they can be confused with comets and asteroids, meteors and meteoroids can be differentiated by their rocky composition. A meteor shower is a celestial event in which meteors appear to “shower” across the night sky. These showers are caused when the Earth passes through a stream of cosmic debris that enters the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds on parallel trajectories.

Meteor showers get their names from the constellation in which their “radiant” is located. The radiant of a meteor shower is the point from which the shower appears to originate. In the case of the Lyrid showers, the radiant is located in the Lyra (harp) constellation near the star Vega. As this radiant rises higher above the horizon, the number of Lyrid meteors that are observable increases. At peak conditions, skywatchers could expect to see around 18 meteors per hour from the Lyrids.

The debris that creates the Lyrids meteor shower originates from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. This comet itself takes 415 Earth years to orbit the sun. C/1861 G1 Thatcher, as expected, was discovered on Apr. 5, 1861, by A. E. Thatcher. Interestingly enough, scientists and society have been aware of the Lyrids longer than it has known about their parent comet, C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The first sighting of this meteor shower was recorded in China in 687 BC. This means that we have been aware of the Lyrid meteor shower for 2,700 years, making the Lyrids one of the oldest known meteor showers.

As quoted by a article, “NASA suggests that to increase the chances of spotting the Lyrids, amateur astronomers should head well away from city or street lights, equipped with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair. After observing dark skies for around 30 minutes allowing your eyes to adjust to the dark, NASA says you should be able to start seeing meteors with your unaided eye, but patience is required.”

The peak of this year’s shower falls on the nights of April 21-22 and April 22-23. Be sure to head outside at night to possibly catch a glimpse of these stunning annual meteors!


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