The Lyrid meteor shower will be in full effect in some regions — thanks to clear skies and a new moon — on Tuesday night.
The meteors’ path springs from the star Vega, within their namesake constellation Lyra the Harp, which will be almost directly overhead by 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. For the most comfortable viewing, consider bringing a blanket or lounge chair for lying down and looking up.
What’s the best time to see the Lyrids?
While meteors could be seen through April 25, peak viewing occurs around 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, according to Space.com, when as many as 10-20 meteors — a k a “shooting stars” — per hour can be spotted in regions with clear skies and low light pollution. As many as 25% of Lyrids will leave an incandescent light trail, visible for a few beats after the meteor passes.
Where can I see the Lyrids?
Those along the East Coast may want to bring a jacket and tarp along, too. While Windy.com forecasters are calling for cool temperatures and some rain in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic States on Tuesday night, conditions may clear up during the early hours on Wednesday, during peak viewing. Aside from a storm system over the Great Plains region, the rest of the country can expect clear skies throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.
Where do the Lyrids come from?
In 1867, Viennese scientist Edmond Weiss noted that the orbit of the Lyrids coincided with Comet Thatcher last seen by humans in the spring of 1861. In the same year as Weiss’ discovery, astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle confirmed that the Lyrids are the cosmic breadcrumbs deposited by Comet Thatcher, which won’t pass through Earth’s inner orbit again until 2276.
This shower is uniquely unpredictable. In some years, the hourly rate of meteors streaking through the sky have been somewhere between 90 to 100. In his book “Meteor Showers and Their Parent Comets,” NASA researcher Peter Jenniskens predicts there could be another spike in Lyrid’s meteors in the years 2040 and 2041.