This April, skywatchers all across Canada and the Northern Hemisphere will be able to catch a glimpse of the annual Lyrid meteor shower during April 16 to 25.
The Lyrids are a prominent meteor shower that peaks in late April and can be classified as being among the oldest of known meteor showers. According to Space.com, Chinese astronomers first recorded the shower “as far back as 687 B.C.” While it isn’t as flashy as other meteor showers, the Lyrids have been known to have unusual peaks of activity. While a typical shower has about 10 to 20 meteors an hour during its peak, some of the more fruitful ones over the years have been reported to have up to 100 meteors an hour or more.
The Lyrid meteor shower occurs every year during late April when the Earth crosses the orbital path of a comet called Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1) and passes through debris that are left by it. EarthSky explains that the meteor phenomenon occurs from the bits and pieces that are shed by this comet and litter its orbit, therefore bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere at 110,000 miles per hour (177,000 km/h). This vaporizing debris then “streaks the nighttime with medium-fast Lyrid meteors. It’s when Earth passes through an unusually thick clump of comet rubble that an elevated number of meteors can be seen.”
The peak of this shower is expected to fall just before dawn on the morning of April 23, according to EarthSky, however it will happen “under the light of a bright waning gibbous moon.” What this means is that the brightness of the moon will wash out all but the very brightest meteors during its peak. Any meteors that are visible will likely appear unexpectedly in any part of the sky, so it’s best to keep your eyes open for any light or movement in order not to miss anything.
To make sure you have the best view of the meteor shower, and since the moon will possibly be hindering your view, you’ll want to be as far away from any bright city lights as possible. The view will also be dependant on how clear the skies are that night, so make sure to check your local weather report before going stargazing.
In order to have the best meteor shower experience, make sure to grab your friends, pack plenty of warm blankets and snacks, and head out to a nearby dark sky preserve and get ready to be amazed by this natural light show.
For other upcoming meteor showers, check out this helpful schedule.