While the Lyrids are an average shower at best, on this night, there will be no moon interference whatsoever, making it possible to see 20-30 meteors per hour during the peak. All you need to do is go to a dark location.
Even though the Lyrids are not a major shower, because there won’t be any moon interference on this night, this will be a great night to go stargaze regardless!
The Lyrids get their name from the fact the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra. The radial point will be fairly close to the bright star Vega, which rises around 9 pm local time, earlier if you live further north.
The source of the meteor shower is particles of dust shed by the long-period Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.
So what time is the peak?
You will want to go out on the night of the 21st into the 22nd.
While you should understand that meteor showers are all night events which have gradual climbs and sharp declines over a few days, it is predicted that the peak will be on April 22 around 10:00 UTC, or 6 am Eastern/ 3 am Pacific on that Wednesday morning before dawn. Therefore, the true peak activity will favor the west coast. With any location, the best times to view it will be between midnight and 4 am, when the radial point will be high, reaching zenith after 4 am.
Your best viewing will be from a dark location away from the cities, as light pollution does lower your rate of what you’ll see. Don’t be the person who tries to view from within the city hoping to catch one meteor, get frustrated that you didn’t see one right away, and then head back to bed.
In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic and the “shelter in place” guidelines, being away from people is more important than ever – you should make it a point to be observing alone, or with just a few people, away from people! Do not go to any crowded campsites or create large gatherings! If you do happen to be set up where other people happen to be, follow the social distancing guidelines! The Earth is a big place, and there’s plenty of space in remote locations to set up!
The Moon will reach “new moon” phase on April 22. That means you have an entire night with no moon interference, and during peak hours you’ll have plenty of meteors to catch!
It’s a mid April night, just check your weather forecasts for the location you want to observe – plenty of locations can be experiencing near freezing temperatures. Even in Southern California, April nights can feel a little cold if you’re outside unprepared. You’ll most likely be laying down outside for more than a couple of hours, and wind chills can affect how comfortable you get!
If the meteors don’t appear right away, chances are you’re going back inside out of frustration while cursing the heavens – be patient! Seasoned meteor shower viewers know that Meteors won’t be equally spaced either – you may see a burst of a few followed by long periods of nothing. In the case of the Lyrids, you’ll need to be even more patient!
Let your eyes adapt to the night sky, which can take up to 10-20 minutes – this means don’t keep checking your phone screen as the white light will ruin your dark adaptation and make it harder to spot the dimmer meteors. If there are outdoor lights from a building or two in the distance, try not to stare in that direction!
Even though the meteors will radiate from Lyra, have as wide of a view of the sky as possible, as they will streak anywhere in the sky. It’s best to look up, not restrict yourself to areas above the horizon.
Good luck and have fun!
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