A meteor shower known as the annual Lyrid was peaking for observers early Monday. The shower occurs each year in mid-April when the Earth passes through a trail of dusty debris from the Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1).
In fact, it orbits the sun once every 415 years. Humans have been observing this particular meteor shower for at least 2,600 years.
Typically, the Lyrid meteor shower is a relatively faint stargazing event, though observers with clear dark skies away from city lights can usually spot up to 15 or 20 meteors an hour. The meteors appear to radiate out of the constellation Lyra (hence their name), which can be found in the eastern night sky tonight.
The moon is expected to spoil much of this year’s Lyrid meteor display because it is currently in its bright gibbous phase, with the lunar disk nearly 85-percent illuminated, according to SPACE.com’s stargazing columnist and meteorologist Joe Rao. That means that moonlight will likely wash out fainter Lyrid meteors, with only the brightest streakers being visible.
The best time to seek Lyrid meteors is actually in the wee hours of Monday morning (April 22) after the moon has set, but before the sun rises. This observing window opens at about 4 a.m. your local time and can close by about 4:30 a.m. At that time the Lyrid radiate will nearly directly overhead in the night sky, Rao explained.
The Lyrid meteor shower is not the only celestrial event occuring this week. On Thursday (April 25) the moon will pass through part of the Earth’s shadow in a partial lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be primarily visible in its entirety from parts of eastern Europe or Africa, central Asia and western Australia, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak.