It seems like it has been forever since I have written the words Meteor Shower Time but it is finally here, our next meteor shower! After a three month draught, the Lyrids are a true delight as they kick off the year’s meteor shower season. This shower is at the top of my list because the biggest meteor I have ever seen by far was a Lyrid, even though fireballs are supposed to be a Taurids thing.
WHEN is it?
The meteor shower technically began yesterday and lasts until April 25th, but when it comes to meteor showers, our main concern is the peak of the shower. The peak of the Lyrids is April 22nd and 23rd. The meteor shower will be visible from midnight until dawn. Unfortunately, April 22nd is also a full moon which means meteors have to compete with the Moon’s light to shine bright in the sky. The closer to dawn (when the moon is lowest in the sky) you watch the shower, the better luck you will have at finding meteors.
WHERE should you look?
If you can tell by the name, the constellation these are close to is Lyra. Lyra is a small constellation and host to the very bright star Vega. If you aren’t that familiar with the sky, don’t worry; you can use an app (like the one I suggested). Search for Vega or the entire constellation and use the app to figure out where the constellation is at that moment. You can even figure out when it rises and sets. If you use the app I do, make sure you turn on sky object trajectories and use that as a guide for where the star (or constellation) will be and at what time. It should be on automatically, but in case it is not, it is the button on the upper right of the settings (as shown on the right). Also remember that it is always a good idea not to stare at the exact same constellation all night. Let your eyes wander; it isn’t an exact science of where you will see the meteor. Sometimes it is helpful to keep your eyes active by looking somewhere else and coming back.
WHAT are the meteors made of?
The Lyrids are made of the bits of dust and debris left behind by Comet Thatcher. Comet Thatcher takes 415 years to orbit the Sun and isn’t expected to come by us until about 2280. The last time it swung by Earth was in 1861. That means the bits you see burn up this April have been there at least for 155 years!
NEXT ON THE LINEUP: Eta Aquarids May 5th