Lyrid Meteor Shower TONIGHT!
Tonight, is a good night to go outside to enjoy the annual Lyrid meteor shower! Though various sky-watching organizations have given different dates for the actual peak, if you go out and look up between tonight and April 23rd, you’re in for a treat.
The Lyrids are an annual meteor shower that happens every April as the Earth passes through the dusty trail left behind by comet Thatcher. This comet orbits the Sun about every 415 years and visited our cosmic neighborhood most recently in 1861. This particular meteor shower has been reported to have been observed as far back as 687 B.C.
Sky-watchers can expect to see roughly 18 meteors per hour. However, on occasion, the Lyrids have been known to produce outbursts of up to 100 meteors per hour, though the bright moon might make some of these difficult to see.
While you can see meteors no matter where in the sky you look, the radiant (seeming point of meteor origin) is just northeast of the bright star, Vega. And while you can see some meteors from the Southern Hemisphere, the Norther Hemisphere will have the best views since the radiant is still above the horizon before dawn in that half of the world.
Head outside and look east around 9pm-10pm local time, because that’s when the radiant will be above the horizon. Of course, the origin point will continue to climb in the sky throughout the night, so set up your lawn chairs for optimum comfort. If possible, try to find a nice dark area to observe from. While it is possible to use a nice set of binoculars, a telescope is not recommended. In fact, the best viewing comes from your own naked eye.
Want to see meteors with long, striking tails? Don’t focus all your viewing solely on the radiant. Look all over the sky! The meteors will be traveling as fast as 49km (30mi) per second and will shine about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper.
So, dress appropriately for your area and go outside for the next few nights! Remember, you never know what you’ll see if you just keep your eyes to the skies!