It's time to gaze up and catch one of the annual meteor showers that will grace our night skies in 2021!
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. And, you don't necessarily need any special equipment to view possible shooting stars.
Really, if the weather is nice, it will be a perfect time to get outside and get as far away from city lights as possible. Give your eyes time to adjust, about 20 minutes or so, and if you are lucky, you might see a meteor or two, though it might not happen.
"Don’t expect too much. A wise man once said: Meteor showers are like fishing. You go. You enjoy the night air and maybe the company of friends. Sometimes you catch something," said Earthsky.org about the April meteor showers.
This year, the Moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase during the Lyrids’ peak, so the best viewing will be between moonset and dawn on April 22.
"The Lyrids reach their peak on the night of April 21–22, 2021, when you can expect to see an average of 10 meteors per hour in dark, clear skies between midnight and dawn. Rarely, the Lyrids produce surges of up to 100 meteors per hour," said The Old Farmer's 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 Lyrids are really just a great warm-up for the next meteor shower, the spectacular Eta Aquarids, which will peak on May 4-5, though it runs from April 19 to May 28. You may actually catch a glimpse of a few of the Eta Aquarids meteors mixed in with the Lyrid peak.
"Eta Aquarid meteors are known for their speed. These meteors are fast—traveling at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into Earth's atmosphere. Fast meteors can leave glowing "trains" (incandescent bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) which last for several seconds to minutes. In general, 30 Eta Aquarid meteors can be seen per hour during their peak," said Nasa.gov.
Are you an astronomy fan? Do you have any great places to watch meteor showers that you are willing to share? Let us know in the comments!