It's time to gaze up and catch one of the annual meteor showers that will grace our night skies in 2020!
The Lyrid meteor shower, the oldest on record, usually starts around April 16 and is expected to peak in the late evening, early morning hours April 21-22. Up to 20 meteors could be visible during the event. If you happen to miss peak-viewing hours, don't worry! The Lyrids will usually stick around until early morning on April 25.
The Lyrids, the second shower of the year after January's Quadrantids, don't put on the biggest show, but it's very much worth a look. This is because this shower is known to have surges that can produce up to 100 meteors an hour; those outbursts are rare and hard to predict, but how cool would it be to catch that sight?
The best time to view the Lyrids is from midnight to dawn.
Really, if the weather is nice, it will be a perfect time to get outside (observing social distancing, of course), as light pollution and air pollution is lessened a bit due to the COVID-19 stay-home practice. That could create some good conditions to see the meteors right from your own backyard. In addition, the moon will only be a sliver in size (about 1 percent full) during peak, so it will create ideal sky conditions to see shooting stars.
"The Lyrid meteor shower will reach its peak on the morning of April 22nd, within one day of New Moon, so this year is an excellent one to look for these meteors. At maximum, only 10 to 20 per hour may be expected, but most appear as swift, bright streaks of light," said the Farmers Almanac.
The Lyrid meteor shower usually runs in mid-April every year. These meteors are pieces of Comet Thatcher, a comet that orbits the sun every 415 years. It radiates next to a constellation, Lyra, in the northern hemisphere that represents the lyre played by the Greek God Orpheus. This shower is the oldest known to humankind, with its first recordings around 690 B.C.
The next meteor shower will be the spectacular Eta Aquarids, peak on May 4-5, though it runs from April 19 to May 28.