Keep an eye out for shooting stars early Sunday morning (April 22): The Lyrid meteor shower has been active, and will hit its peak after midnight.
Observers under dark skies in the Northern Hemisphere can view as many as a dozen Lyrid meteors each hour in the early morning from mid- to late April. And up to 20 meteors per hour will likely be visible overnight Saturday to Sunday (April 21-22), according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Space Science Telescope Institute (STScI).
The Lyrids are classified as a medium-strength shower, according to STScI, and are visible every year in April. The shower appears to emanate from the constellation Lyra (the Harp), hence its name. People have been watching these streaks for thousands of years: Chinese astronomers recorded the shower back in 687 B.C., according to NASA. The Lyrids result each year when Earth passes through the trail of dust and debris left behind by Comet Thatcher; the icy rock itself is expected to return to the solar system in 2276, after its most recent approach in 1861. [The Most Amazing Lyrid Meteor Shower Photos of All Time]
Observers in the U.S. will also have a good view of these shooting stars on the nights before and after the Lyrids peak (after midnight on Friday, and after midnight on Sunday), according to JPL. The moon is bright because it's at a first-quarter phase, so NASA suggests waiting until the moon sets at midnight to see the Lyrids.
If you are making plans to skywatch this weekend, keep in mind that there are also many other shining objects to search for. Before midnight, a few hours before prime Lyrid shower viewing, Jupiter rises in the east, according to NASA. The giant gas planet and its Great Red Spot are visible with a regular telescope. Mars and Saturn join the night sky in the hours before dawn, in the summer constellation Sagittarius, STScI said in a recent video. The constellation Leo (the Lion) is also worth keeping an eye out for. It appears in the south, and worth spotting are the Leo Triplet galaxies near the belly of the beast, as well as the heart of the lion, the star Regulus.
Follow Doris Elin Salazar on Twitter @salazar_elin. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.