The Lyrid meteor shower happens each year in mid-April when the Earth passes through debris from the Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), which orbits the sun once every 415 years. Humans have been observing this particular meteor shower for at least 2,600 years.
Unfortunately, the moon will spoil the meteor shower because it’s in the bright gibbous phase. Even then, the Lyrid meteor shower typically is a faint event, even observers with a clear dark sky will only spot up to 15 or 20 meteors an hour. Although, there have been some remarkable exceptions. In 1982 the rate unexpectedly reached 90 for a single hour, and 180 to 300 for a few minutes. A brief outburst of 100 per hour was also seen in 1922, according to Sky and Telescope.
“Brief outbursts of around a hundred meteors per hour have been noted a couple of times in the 20th century, and Chinese astronomers in 687 B.C. recorded Lyrid meteors falling like rain overhead,” said Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.
“This unpredictability always makes the Lyrids a shower to watch, since we cannot say when the next unusual return may occur,” note Alistair McBeath and Rainer Arlt of the International Meteor Organization.
If you do happen to be in an area look to the eastern night sky. The meteors appear to radiate out of the constellation Lyra (hence their name), which can be found in the eastern night sky tonight, according to Space.com stargazing columnist and meteorologist Joe Rao.
“In general, meteors are more numerous after midnight, and so this may be especially true for the Lyrids this year after the moon sets in the predawn hours on April 22,” explained Hammergren.
Dont’ worry if you miss the Lyrid meteor shower, because on Thursday, April 25 the moon will pass through part of the Earth’s shadow and present a partial lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be primarily visible in its entirety from parts of eastern Europe or Africa, central Asia and western Australia, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
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