Lyrid meteor shower: What to know
In late April, skywatchers in the northern hemisphere will get a view of 2018’s Lyrid meteor shower. Here is everything you need to know about this year’s starry spectacle.
The annual Lyrid meteor shower will light up the night sky this week, with its peak in the predawn hours on Thursday.
While the first months of the year have been quiet since January’s Quadrantid meteor shower, the Lyrids are a welcome sight to observers hoping for a celestial spectacle.
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Though the shooting stars can appear anywhere in the sky, curious stargazers can look to the meteors’ namesake constellation Lyra — the harp — for reference as Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from near the bright star Vega, EarthSky reported on Tuesday.
The American Meteor Society shows that the moon will be around 68% full on Thursday, possibly impacting visibility.
A meteor crosses the sky illuminated under the stars on a clear night on April 21, 2020 in London, England. Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image. (Photo by Simon Robling/Getty Images)
(Simon Robling/Getty Images)
Light pollution will also be a potentially debilitating factor and experts advise viewers to attempt to find an unobstructed view.
One of the oldest known meteor showers, Lyrids have been witnessed for 2,700 years, according to NASA.
The agency notes they are recognizable for their fast and bright meteors and can produce an outburst of as many as 100 meteors per hour.
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In general, 10 to 20 Lyrid meteors can be observed per hour during their peak, traveling at a velocity of 30 miles per second and NASA notes that Lyrids often leave behind glowing dust trains as they blaze through the Earth’s atmosphere.
The source of the shower is the Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), which was discovered on April 5, 1861, by astronomer A. E. Thatcher.
As Earth crosses Thatcher’s orbital path, it passes through a trail of debris and is bombarded with comet litter for two weeks.
Thatcher was last seen in the 19th century and isn’t expected to return until the year 2276, according to Insider.
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After the Lyrids pass, there are still 11 meteor showers to watch for this year.
The Lyrids will overlap with the Eta Aquarids meteor shower that NASA says is set to peak in early May.
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