On the night of April 21, the 2012 Lyrid meteor shower peaked in the skies over Earth. While NASA allsky cameras were looking up at the night skies, astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station trained his video camera on Earth below. This image was taken on April 22, 2012.
Credit: NASA/JSC/D. Pettit
An annual meteor shower is set to peak this weekend, but the showing likely won't be as strong as it has been in years past.
The Lyrid meteor shower should give skywatchers in darkened parts of the world a decent show late Sunday night (April 21) and early Monday morning (April 22), but the glare from a nearly full moon will probably impede the view for many stargazers.
"The Lyrid meteor shower will be best seen in the early morning hours of April 22," officials from the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a video. "Moonlight will interfere with this year's display, but away from city lights, you might see up to 20 meteors per hour."
NASA meteor scientist Bill Cooke was a bit more pessimistic, telling SPACE.com via email that viewers under dark skies can expect to see about 10 meteors per hour during the peak, which is just three days before the April 25 full moon.
Meteor showers like the Lyrids occur when the Earth passes through pieces of cosmic debris left behind by periodic comets as they orbit the sun. These sloughed-off particles enter and burn up in the planet's atmosphere, creating brilliant streaks every year.
The Lyrids — named because they appear to originate from the constellation Lyra — were spawned from a comet known as C/1861 G1 Thatcher that flies past the Earth once every 415 years. This shower has been observed in mid-April for at least 2,500 years, according to NASA scientists.
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