Monday April 20, 2020
Every year the Lyrid meteor shower peaks in the third week of April. There is a wide window between the 16th and 28th, but the most action is between the 21st and 22nd. If you want the best chance for a good sky show, you will have to head our very early in the morning. The weather tonight will be clear sky with light winds. Tomorrow we have the potential for strong winds following showers and storms. So the best opportunity may be Tuesday morning a few hours before dawn.
For 2700 years people have been observing the fast and bright meteors left behind from Comet C/1861 G Thatcher. Typical viewing is between 10 to 20 meteors per hour. But a few notable times have brought heavier showers with 100 per hour. According to NASA these have been: 1803 (Virginia), 1922 (Greece), 1945 (Japan), and 1982 (U.S.)
The constellation of Lyra is where we get the name for the shower. This is known as the harp, and is considered the center or radiant where the meteors come from.
Lyrids appear to particularly radiate out from the star Vega, which is the brightest star within this constellation.
Hint: Look for Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. You can watch this rising in the Northeast around 11 PM. But the shower will not be more visible as this moves higher in the sky overnight.
Note: The constellation for which a meteor shower is named only serves to aid viewers in determining which shower they are viewing on a given night. The constellation is not the source of the meteors.
The ‘Harp’ will be rising all night, and you may see meteors any time. But this will be at the highest point with the best viewing between 2 AM and 5 AM nearly directly overhead. So the beast views will be when your eyes have had 20 minutes to adjust to the dark, and during this time frame a few hours before sunrise.
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