Spectacular Lyrid Meteor showers to grace the night sky this week

Darnell Taylor
April 20, 2018

The Lyrids are debris from the comet Thatcher, named after A.E. Thatcher, an astronomer who identified the comet the last time it approached Earth in 1861. Hence, people can clearly see the meteors during their peak time. Although predictions place this year's maximum during daylight for observers in Western Europe, weekend early risers in rural areas could be in for a treat as the Lyrid shower is known for fireballs and bright meteors leaving glowing trails. The Lyrid meteors will streak across the sky is various directions, radiating in the direction of the constellation Lyra. Peak viewing time is when the skies are darkest, after moonset and before sunrise.

If you like shooting stars, you're in luck. Every year when Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Thatcher, the Lyrid meteor shower will soar across darkened skies.

The Lyrid meteor shower is an annual phenomenon. Though not as impressive as the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December (with up to 100 meteors per hour), the Lyrids are still a sight worth seeing.

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"In the early morning sky, a patient observer will see up to more than a dozen meteors per hour in this medium-strength shower, with 18 meteors per hour calculated for the peak", wrote Jane Houston Jones of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. "U.S. observers should see good rates on the nights before and after this peak". National Weather Service has forecasted clear skies for almost the western half of the U.S and the immediate Eastern Seaboard. NASA says the moon will temporarily bring some light pollution to the sky, but once it sets, there will be excellent dark sky conditions for viewers.

People can see the Lyrid meteor showers through naked eyes, binoculars or telescopes. Lay back and get as much of the sky in your view as possible, and just wait. It goes without saying that you'll have a better view if you are away from the city because the more light fills the sky, the less you'll be able to view the comet debris streaking by.

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