The Lyrid meteor shower is ready to dazzle skywatchers during the weekend of April 21st and 22nd.
These shooting stars are the result of the Earth traveling into the path of tiny fragments of debris within the planet’s orbit around the Sun. Many of these particles are only about the size of an apple seed, but they can create a dazzling display as they plummet through the atmosphere of the Earth.
“Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.” NASA reports.
No special equipment is needed to view a meteor shower, as the best views come without the aid of a telescope or binoculars. Simply find a dark sky somewhere away from city lights, with a clear view to the east and south. Starting about 9 pm local time, a series of shooting stars will be seen emanating from low over the eastern horizon. As the night progresses, the center of the display will slowly rise in the sky as it moves toward the south.
Although there are 10 reliable meteor showers each year, the display is often drowned out by light from the Moon. However, our planetary companion will cooperate for this event, only coming up late at night on Saturday the 21st.
Amateur astronomers are expected to see a shooting star every three to four minutes during this event, however, the Lyrids displayed one meteor every 30 seconds or so in 1922 and 1980. This annual display has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest-known meteor showers.
Make sure to bring snacks, drinks, and a blanket or clothes to stay warm while you are out enjoying the view!