The rest of this week will provide we mortal Earthlings one of the greatest shows in nature, and the cost is free. Yes it is time once again for the annual Lyrid meteor shower which will streak across our skies Friday night and Saturday morning. Experts say this year will be one of the best shows in recent years.
The truly spectacular display will be taking place just before the new moon this year. As a result, the super dark skies will provide ideal conditions for stargazers who can expect to see up to 20 ‘shooting stars’ an hour starting late Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning. The meteor shower occurs every year between April 16 and April 25, but this year the peak display will start just after midnight Friday night on April 22.
Experienced stargazers predict the greatest number of shooting starts are expected to fall in the hours just before dawn. They say the event is best seen from the northern hemisphere but those in the southern hemisphere can still enjoy the show, just with fewer meteors. In order to get the best view of the event, you should find a position in a low light area. The desert, mountains, or beach areas are best. But if this options are not available to you, look for a dim area, away from streetlights or brightly-lit buildings, with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as at a park or even a ball field.
The shower is created when the Earth crosses the trail of dust particles left from the passing of the Comet Thatcher as it orbits the sun every 415 years. As the Earth Crosses the Comets trail, the particles are attracted by our gravity and then burns up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere creating streaks of different colored light in the night sky. Sometimes the Lyrid fireballs can become extremely bright as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, sometimes lighting up the entire night sky for a few seconds.
The Lyrid meteor shower will be visible for much of the nation as it reaches its peak on Friday night: Please check your local weather conditions before you decided to stay up all night to watch the shower only to find that it is raining or foggy. This is the second meteor shower this year and is expected to be the most eye-catching. At least until the Orionid shower in late October which could provide as many as 100 shooting stars per hour.