The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day. Here’s how to watch.

One of the oldest known meteor showers is gracing the night sky this week, coinciding with our planet’s celebration known as Earth day. There hasn’t been a meteor shower in months, and the Lyrid meteor shower marks the end of the drought.

This year, the Lyrid meteor shower it reaches its maximum point during the night of April 22. This shower has a narrower peak than others, which means sky watchers won’t have all month to spot shooting stars.

What are the Lyrids?

The Lyrid meteor shower lights up the night sky every year from around April 15 to 29, when particles break off from Comet 1861 G1 Thatcher. The comet last passed through the inner solar system in 1861 and won’t return until 2276 due to its 415-year orbit.

There are records of the spectacular light show dating back some 2,700 years, making it one of the oldest known meteor showers. According to NASA, the Lyrid meteor shower was first recorded in China in 687 BC.

Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, located near the well-known star Vega, after which the shower is named.

Meteors during this shower are considered to be fairly fast, approaching Earth’s atmosphere at about 110,000 miles per hour. They are known for their speed and brilliance, though viewers shouldn’t expect them to be as bright as meteors during the famous perseid shower in August.

Still, about 25% of Lyrid meteors leave behind a lingering “bright dust train” that glows for several seconds after they’ve already passed, creating beautiful shooting stars.

The Lyrids shower is likely to feature spectacular bursts of 100 meteors per hour. Heavy rains occurred in Greece in 1922, Japan in 1945, and the United States in 1982.

But in a normal year, a viewer can expect to see 10 to 20 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 to 2 per hour in the Southern Hemisphere, under normal weather conditions.

Lyrids meteor shower over Austria
The Startrails are seen during the Lyrids meteor shower over Michaelskapelle on April 20, 2020 in Niederhollabrunn, Austria.

Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

When and where to see the Lyrids

The Lyrid meteor shower is forecast to peak at 4 UTC on Friday, April 22, according to EarthSky.

Unfortunately, this year, a bright waning moon will light up the sky during the shower, making shooting stars difficult to spot. The shower starts before Saturday full moon “pink”named for the “pink moss” herb, Phlox subulata.

However, the hour before midnight, before the moon is high in the sky, may be the best time for stargazing. But regardless of where you are on Earth, the best time to spot most meteor showers is from midnight to sunrise.

If you look directly at the radiant, the point where the meteors seem to come from, which will be in the constellation Lyra, the shooting stars will be short. To see longer, more spectacular meteors, it’s best to look away.

As always, it’s best to escape the harsh city lights and watch meteor showers in an open space. However, it may be helpful in this case to shield your eyes from the glare of the moon by using a tree or a small building. Give your eyes 30 minutes to adjust to the dark, lie on your back and look up.

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