April’s Lyrid Meteor Shower Brings an End to the “Meteor Drought”
Each year, between January and April, there’s a “meteor drought” right after the Quadrantid meteors flood the night sky in early January. Luckily, the drought is coming to an end this month and the Lyrids at the end of April will make it worth the wait.
The Lyrid meteor shower, which begins April 15 and lasts through April 29, will peak on April 22 when you may be able to see 10 to 15 Lyrid meteors per hour.
Lyrids radiate from the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp, which is located in the northeastern sky. They’re actually debris from the Comet Thatcher, which takes 417 years to travel around the sun. Comet Thatcher will pass by Earth again in 2278.
And fun fact: the Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest recorded showers in history with the first Lyrids being seen in Ancient China about 2,700 years ago in 687 B.C.
This year, the last quarter moon might make it tricky to see the Lyrids, which is why you’ll want to head outside in the late evening of April 21 and 22, before moonrise, to see if you can catch a glimpse of the Lyrids at their peak. Once the moon rises, you can try to sit in the shadow of a house or tree that blocks out the moonlight to get a better view.
One distinct trait of the Lyrids that makes them easier to see is their ionized gas train that glows for a couple of seconds after the meteor passes by.
Because the Lyrids radiate from the northern sky, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will have an easier time seeing meteors, but the Southern Hemisphere locals can also catch glimpses here and there as well.
So, keep your eyes on the night sky come the end of the month to see a spectacular cosmic show.