Lyrid Meteor Shower to Peak Sunday Night, But Full Moon May Interfere

Catch the Lyrid meteor shower's peak on April 21-22, 2024, with up to 20 meteors per hour, though a bright moon may hinder visibility. Witness this celestial spectacle and contribute to comet research.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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Lyrid Meteor Shower to Peak Sunday Night, But Full Moon May Interfere

Lyrid Meteor Shower to Peak Sunday Night, But Full Moon May Interfere

The annual Lyrid meteor shower will reach its peak on the night of Sunday, April 21, 2024, into the early morning hours of Monday, April 22. Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere can expect to see around 10 to 20 meteors per hour during the peak, which is best viewed after midnight and before dawn.

The Lyrids occur every April as the Earth passes through the debris trail left behind by Comet Thatcher. When these debris particles, most no larger than a grain of sand, enter Earth's atmosphere at high speeds, they disintegrate in flashes of light that we see as meteors. Lyrid meteors are known for their speed and brightness, typically traveling at about 29 miles per second.

However, this year's Lyrid display may be more challenging to observe due to the presence of a nearly full moon. The bright moonlight could wash out the fainter meteors, making them more difficult to spot. "Larger Lyrid meteors may be visible despite the bright moonlight," said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke. "But the moonlight will reduce the overall number of visible meteors."

To maximize your chances of seeing the Lyrids, find a dark location away from city lights and give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness. Lie back on a blanket or lawn chair and look up, allowing your eyes to take in as much of the sky as possible. While the Lyrids will appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra near the bright star Vega, meteors can be seen in any part of the sky.

Why this matters: The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest known meteor showers, with records dating back to 687 BC. Meteor showers offer a unique opportunity for people to witness a celestial spectacle and connect with the wonders of the universe. They also provide valuable data for scientists studying the composition and behavior of comets and their debris trails.

Despite the interference from the nearly full moon, the Lyrids are still worth watching for those willing to brave the less-than-ideal conditions. "The Lyrids are always unpredictable," said Cooke. "They're one of those showers where you never know exactly what to expect. That's what makes them exciting." Patient observers may be rewarded with a few bright fireballs that defy the moonlight. The next major meteor shower will be the Eta Aquarids in early May, which is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.

Key Takeaways

  • Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 21-22, 2024, with 10-20 meteors/hour.
  • Lyrids are fast, bright meteors caused by Comet Thatcher debris.
  • Bright moonlight may reduce visible meteors, but larger ones may still be seen.
  • Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers, dating back to 687 BC.
  • Next major shower is Eta Aquarids in early May, best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.