Lyrid meteor shower peaks this week

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Later this week, stargazers will be able to view the annual Lyrid meteor shower at its peak, as experts are predicting that the oldest-known meteor shower in the universe will offer viewers 10 to 20 meteors per hour on Wednesday and/or Thursday mornings.

The Lyrids, which are typically the first meteor shower of the year to provide good opportunities for viewing, are active from about April 16 through April 25 each year. In 2015, the shower will peak on the morning of either April 22 or April 23 and last less than one full day.

Here’s what you need to know about the Lyrids

The Slooh Community Observatory, which will host a live stream of the event on Wednesday, explained that this is a promising year for the Lyrids, because the moon will be a slender waxing crescent and will not obscure the view, according to the International Business Times.

The Lyrids have been observed for the past 2,600 years, and in previous years, outbursts of over 100 meteors per hour have been observed (most recently in the US in 1982). No such outburst is expected this year, but according to EarthSky. since meteor showers are “notorious” for defying even “the most careful predictions… an outburst of Lyrid meteors is always a possibility.”

The strongest annual meteor shower created from the debris of a long-period comet, the Lyrids have a relatively short orbital period of approximately 415 years and are created from the debris of Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). Those dust and rock fragments hit the upper atmosphere of the Earth at speeds of over 100,000 mph, becoming vaporized and turning into fireballs.

And here’s where you can go to watch the meteor shower

According to EarthSky, no special equipment is needed to view the Lyrids (or any other meteor shower, for that matter). You just need to find a spot that has little pollution from artificial light where you can see the dark, open sky, then sit back and enjoy the show!

Alternatively, several places in the US and UK are also offering viewing events, according to the International Business Times. In the States, those venues include Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania; the Carl Schurz Park in New York; Death Valley National Park in California; Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona; Bryce Canyon in Utah; the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in Illinois; and Big Bend National Park in Texas.

UK locations listed by the website include the WaterWorks Nature Reserve in London; Heaton Park in Manchester; Warley Woods in Birmingham; Northumberland National Park in Newcastle; Brecon Beacons in Cardiff; Oxford Island National Nature Reserve in Belfast; and the Royal Observatory in the Hermitage of Braid in Edinburgh.


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