The Lyrid meteor shower is coming to a sky near you Monday night, though a bright moon may interfere with your sky watching.
The Lyrids appear each year from about April 16 to 25, according to Earthsky.org.
“In 2019, the peak of this shower – which tends to come in a burst and usually lasts for less than a day – is expected to fall on the morning of Tuesday, April 23, under the light of a bright waning gibbous moon,” Earthsky’s Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd said.
NASA’s Bill Cooke told Space.com that the peak will be a day earlier: late Easter night and into early Monday. So you hard-core meteor fans might want to keep an eye to the sky both Sunday night/Monday morning and Monday night/Tuesday morning. According to reporting from Vox:
The best time to spot the Lyrids in the hours before dawn: That’s when Lyra will the highest in the sky. ‘Around 4 a.m. local daylight time is also about the time that the Lyrid radiant will be almost directly overhead from the southern United States,’ [Space.com’s Joe] Rao writes. Though a bright, nearly full moon might obscure some of the view.
The Lyrids have been observed for more than 2,700 years, NASA said, making them one of the oldest known showers.
The first recorded sighting of a Lyrid meteor shower goes back to 687 B.C. in China. Observers there said the Lyrids were “falling like rain.”
NASA’s Cooke told Space.com that the average Lyrid shower produces 15 to 20 meteors per hour. This year, the meteor shower may hit about 20 per hour.
The meteor shower sometimes bombards the sky with up to nearly 100 meteors per hour, which are known as outbursts. Earthsky said that for example, in 1982, American observers saw an outburst of nearly 100 Lyrid meteors per hour. Japanese observers saw around 100 meteors per hour in 1945, and Greek observers saw that number in 1922. No Lyrid outburst is predicted for 2019, but you never know.
Lyrids are pieces of debris from the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of debris from the comet, causing the meteor shower.
The Lyrids begin as tiny specks of dust that hit Earth’s atmosphere at 109,600 mph, vaporizing from friction with the air and leaving behind the streaks of light we call meteors, Astronomy magazine reported.
The meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, near the bright star Vega, which rises in late evening and passes nearly overhead shortly before dawn, the magazine said.
The Lyrids are known for their fast and bright meteors, NASA said, though not as fast or as plentiful as the famous Perseids in August.
Read more at usatoday.com.