Stargazers are in for a spectacular treat next week. Just a few short days after the rise of the April “Pink Moon,” the Lyrid meteor shower will light up the sky in a fantastic celestial display on its peak night. Named after the beautiful constellation of Lyra (“The Lyre”) – the place in the sky from where it seems to radiate – this annual meteor shower is known for its bright fireballs and tumultuous nature — and could put on a memorable light show for sky watchers to enjoy, provided that the moon’s glare doesn’t get in the way.
While the Lyrids typically make their presence known around mid-April, lingering in the sky for about 10 days, the peak of the meteor shower usually occurs around the date of April 22. This year, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of April 22-23, reports Space, noting that stargazers could be treated to a lovely celestial performance early next week.
The Birth Of A Meteor Shower
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the Lyrid meteor shower is produced by Comet Thatcher, a long-period comet that orbits the sun once every 415 years or so. The Lyrids are active each year between April 16 and April 25, when planet Earth crosses paths with the comet on its journey around the sun.
As it passed through the ancient trail of debris left behind by Comet Thatcher during its last lap around the sun, Earth comes into contact with small pieces of the comet, shed long ago by the icy celestial object and left suspended in space. Excited by the friction with our planet’s atmosphere, these comet fragments fly though the upper atmosphere at breakneck speeds of 110,000 mph and become visible from Earth as they streak across the sky in the form of shooting stars.
The 2019 Lyrid Meteor Shower
While the meteor shower may have kicked off earlier this week, the Lyrids won’t peak until Monday night. Their peak night also offers sky watchers their best chance to catch a glimpse of the shining meteors, as this is when the Lyrids light up the sky in greater numbers.
The 2019 Lyrid meteor shower is expected to start as early as 9 p.m. local time, raining down at rates of up to 20 meteors per hour.
“Late evening hours based on your location, between 9 p.m. and midnight local time, may be the best time to see ‘shooting stars,’ or meteors that burn up in our atmosphere,” states CNN.
If you’re unsure when’s the best time to start looking up, you can always bet on the Lyra constellation to lead the way. Also known as the Lyrids’ radiant, Lyra will climb above the horizon in the northern sky sometime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time, thereby signaling the start of the meteor shower, notes Earth Sky.
The Lyrids And The Moon
Although in most cases the best time to witness a meteor shower are the pre-dawn hours on its peak night, you might not want to wait that long if you want to catch a good glimpse of the Lyrids. That’s because, this year, the meteor shower peaks shortly after the full moon and runs the risk of getting drowned in the glare of its shiny orb.
As The Inquisitr covered yesterday, the full moon of April graced the sky with its dazzling appearance on Friday night. This means that, on Monday night, the sky will be aglow with a bright waning gibbous moon, which could rob the Lyrids of their spotlight.
To make sure you’ll still get a good viewing of the meteors, Earth Sky suggests watching the Lyrids in the early part of the night, before the moon creeps in on the sky.
“There will be a brief window between the time the radiant rises in mid-evening and moonrise around midnight,” notes the media outlet.
“You might see some meteors during these evening hours, and, in particular, the evening hours are the best time to catch an earth grazer, which is a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across your sky.”
Though catching a glimpse of the Lyrids may be a little trickier this year, you won’t want to miss the light show, particularly if you are blessed with cloudless skies and manage to avoid the moon. Even though the Lyrids’ performance might be a little on the modest side as far as meteor showers go – they usually fall down at rates of 10 to 20 meteors per hour, although some years bring spectacular outbursts of up to 100 shooting stars per hour – this is the first meteor shower to grace the sky in months.
The last time that stargazers were treated to a meteor shower was in early January, during the peak of the Quadrantids, as reported by The Inquisitr at the time. After the Lyrids end their activity on April 25, the next meteor shower to look forward to will be brought on by the Eta Aquariids, which this year peak on May 5.