Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight



CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- April is known for its rain showers, but it is also known for its spectacular meteor shower too.  While many people will be focused terrestrially on April 22, 2013 for Earth Day, night sky watchers will focus up to the heavens early that morning for a spectacular display of the Lyrid meteor shower which peaks the night of April 21-22, 2013.


Lyrids are pieces of debris from the periodic Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and have been observed for more than 2,600 years.  In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of cosmic debris from the comet which causes the Lyrid meteor shower.  
 

For the 2013 Lyrids meteor shower, a quarter moon will illuminate the night sky on April 18 which will continue to brighten until it becomes a full moon on April 25.  So timing is crucial this year if you want to enjoy the meteor shower in all its splendor.  Set your alarm clock early, because pre-dawn viewing on the days leading up to April 22 is ideal this year.



When to Watch the Meteor Shower:


On the morning of April 22, 2013, the moon will set just around 4:30 a.m. on the U.S. east coast,  so the best viewing window to watch the Lyrid meteor shower will be from around 4:00 a.m. to just before sunrise.


Where to Watch the Meteor Shower:



The Lyrid meteor shower will be viewable all over the world, with best rates seen just before dawn at the location where you're watching the skies.  The number of Lyrids are very unpredictable, with peak meteor rates between 10-100 per hour.   Cloudless skies and far away from city lights are ideal for watching meteor showers.



Where to Look for the Meteor Shower:



Lyrids will be seen in the north-northwest night sky in the early morning hours.


You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant. The constellation in which the radiant is located gives the shower its name, and in this case, Lyrids appear to come from a point in the constellation Lyra. 


IMAGE CREDIT: NASA