Most of us are doing our best to stay home and stay safe, even though it is 2021. We may even find interesting ways to keep entertained during the pandemic. One of those options is taking up stargazing, but you don’t have to love astronomy to love a good meteor shower.
Your opportunity to see an interesting astronomical phenomenon comes in the form of the Lyrid meteor shower. In the northern hemisphere, you can observe it happening, starting on the night of April 21 and lasting into the early hours of April 22.
If you are at a dark sky location and stick around for the peak, you may be able to see 15 meteors per hour or more. It might even be possible that you see a meteor storm that could last for a short amount of time and may include 100 meteors per hour.
It has been a while since that type of meteor activity was seen. In the United States, it happened in 1982. Japanese observers saw it in 1945 and it was recorded in 1922 by Greek observers.
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The Lyrid meteor shower has been a part of our history for more than 2500 years and perhaps even longer. In Chinese text, it was recorded in ancient history, but it may have been around long before people were around.
As the earth orbits the sun, it passes through the debris that came from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. That comet passed through our solar system in 1861 and won’t be around again for another 280 years or so!
In order to get the most out of your meteor viewing activity, you can search for a dark sky location. Any type of bright lights, including city lights, are going to limit your ability to see a faint shooting star. You should also give yourself 30 minutes or so to allow your eyes to acclimate to the darkness.
Familiarize yourself with the constellation Lyra the Harp, which will appear in the Northeast sky around 10 in the evening. The meteors will appear as if they radiate from that point in the sky. At first, you may only see a few per hour but as the focal point moves higher into the sky, you will likely see more.
Your best chance to see meteors is in the early hours of April 22, approximately 4 AM. By that point, the moon will have set and you will have a darker sky so you can watch for meteors until the sunlight begins to show.
Although the Lyrids are an interesting meteor shower to watch, there are many others that come throughout the year. Familiarize yourself with these showers and you can make them a tradition to enjoy with your family every year.Whizzco