The annual Lyrid meteor shower, which often features some notably bright meteors in the night sky, will enter its peak this weekend. The shower won’t technically peak until the early to middle part of next week, but an increase in visible meteors is expected beginning this weekend. The meteor shower is active from April 15th through April 25th annually, with peak days varying. The visibility of meteors also varies year to year based on sky and moon conditions.
This year, ideal viewing conditions are anticipated with a waxing crescent moon setting during the early evening hours of the peak days. This will leave especially dark conditions for meteor viewing. While last years Lyrid meteor shower was generally unimpressive, the variance from year to year leaves meteor-watchers very hopeful for this years result.
This Lyrid meteor shower typically produces between 10 and 20 meteors per hour during its peak. While this is relatively mundane compared to the other “major” meteor showers which occur annually, the Lyrids can produce some very bright meteors with fireballs. Some isolated peaks of 20+ meteors per hour have been observed. For instance, American observers saw 100+ meteors per hour from the Lyrids in 1982.
If you wish to trace back the origin of the Lyrid meteors, they typically start from the constellation Lyra the Harp. This constellation coincidentally falls near the brilliantly bright star Vega, which is easy to spot in the night sky. While only by chance, this provides a very easy recognizable point in the sky to find the meteors. Still, you don’t need to identify either of these to see the meteors. They will move through the night sky at various points and directions — and will be easy to see if the conditions are clear.
As always with meteor showers, or any astronomical event, we recommend finding a dark spot in the suburbs to view this shower. Light pollution will make viewing very difficult in New York City. If you’re looking to view the shower this weekend or early next week, head out to the suburbs of New Jersey, New York or Long Island where light pollution is much less. Settle down and give your eyes some time to adjust. Then, enjoy the show.
Weather will be a factor
Weather, obviously, plays a major role in the ability to view any meteor shower. This year, multiple mid and upper level atmospheric disturbances are expected to be traversing the Eastern United States from Sunday through the middle part of next week — right during the peak of the Lyrids. However, it is still unclear at this point whether skies will clear on a few days near the peak of the shower to allow for good viewing.
Over the next few days, our meteorologists will be able to get a much better idea as to what we can expect in terms of weather. The timing and intensity of weather systems passing the area will be ironed out over the next few days, giving us a better idea as to whether or not we’ll be able to view the meteor shower at peak this year.