Although the annual display was very much visible last night, skygazers can still view the Lyrid meteor showers this weekend. But where should you look, when is the best time to look, and what’s the deal with this meteor shower?
According to EarthSky, the Lyrid meteor showers is usually active from April 16 to 25, with viewers likely to see its meteors anytime during the active period. The number of meteors one could see at any given time may vary, though there have been times in history when the shower had been especially active. In the United States, viewers were able to see close to 100 Lyrid meteors per hour in 1982, and that too was the case several years beforehand, as Greece (1922) and Japan (1945) were both witness to 100-meteor-per-hour showers in those years. On an average, however, meteors appear at a rate of about 10 to 20 per hour at their peak on a moonless night.
Additionally, the Lyrids are among the first meteor showers discovered in history, with the first sightings recorded about 2,700 years ago – EarthSky noted that these meteors “(fell) like rain” in 687 B.C. The Lyrid meteor shower originates from Comet Thatcher, as Earth crosses its orbital path in the second half of April each year. As debris from Thatcher scatters around its orbit, the bright pieces of the comet can be seen in evening skies, moving at “medium-fast” speeds for several days in April.
The Lyrid meteor shower in 2017 is expected to peak in the morning hours of April 22, according to a blog post from NASA. As no meteor storms are expected this year, viewers will likely see about 18 meteors per hour in a dark sky before dawn. The chances of seeing the Lyrids in action should be especially good in the coming days, as the moon is nearing its new moon phase, which is scheduled to take place on April 26. The Lyrids may likely still be at their peak on April 23, so if you can’t catch them tonight, there’s still tomorrow to look forward to.
As for the question of where to look, the Lyrid meteor showers will be radiating through the so-called “Summer Triangle,” a group of stars comprised of Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, Altair in the constellation Aquila, and Vega in the constellation Lyra, the latter of which lends its name for the meteor showers in question. NASA suggests waiting “a few hours after midnight” to view the showers, with Vega and Lyra both “high in the eastern sky” at that time.
While AccuWeather wrote that U.S. skygazers may have gotten their best look at the Lyrid meteor showers on Friday, there are still some good places where to look for them and expect peak activity if you live in other parts of the world. AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dave Samuhel expects better viewing on Saturday night local time for those in Europe and Asia, especially in places far from “areas of potent light pollution” – rural areas, in other words.
“Residents and visitors in France, Portugal, Italy and Greece can expect very few clouds to interrupt the overnight spectacle,” wrote AccuWeather.
“Patchy clouds will cross southern Sweden, Norway and the Baltics, but conditions will still be good.”
For those looking forward to catching a glimpse of the Lyrid meteor showers on Sunday, AL.com published a sky cover forecast for 4 a.m. CDT on April 23, with conditions expected to be clear for most of the United States. Notable exceptions include parts of the Pacific Northwest and several Southeast states, though for the most part, it looks like skygazers should still be able to get a good look at the Lyrids this weekend.
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