You may not be able to see the moon in the sky tonight, but if you look up for long enough at a dark, clear sky, you may catch some "shooting stars."
The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks overnight tonight (April 21) and into the early hours of Wednesday (April 22), less than a day before the new moon. Without any glaring moonlight to obstruct the view, skywatchers will have an excellent view of the Lyrids this year — weather permitting.
From a dark, clear sky, observers in the Northern Hemisphere can expect to see as many as 10 to 20 meteors per hour during the shower's peak. Because the shower is active from mid- to late April, some Lyrid meteors may still appear before and after the peak, but tonight will be your best chance to see them.
The shower's peak will last for a few hours, but maximum activity is expected to occur around 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) on Wednesday, according to the Observer's Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. That's about 20 hours before the moon reaches its new phase at 10:26 p.m. EDT (0226 GMT). That tiny sliver of a nearly-new moon still won't be visible in the night sky, because the moon will be below the horizon. In New York City, for example, the moon sets at 6:23 p.m. local time tonight and rises again at 5:50 a.m. tomorrow.
To spot the Lyrids, find a dark sky away from light pollution and look up — ideally while lying on your back, so you don't strain your neck. Lyrid meteors will appear to originate from a point in the sky on the border between the constellations Hercules and Lyra (home of the bright star Vega). This apparent point of origin, known as the meteor shower's radiant, will be in the northeast after sunset and almost directly overhead in the hours before dawn.
Once you've located the radiant, don't just stare at that spot all night. Longer streaks tend to appear farther from the shower's radiant, so you might miss the best meteors if your eyes are glued on that singular spot all night (also, focusing on a single point in the dark for so long might strain your eyes).
So, since lying down on the ground is both more comfortable and will give you the best view of the entire sky, we suggest you kick back and relax to make the most of this brilliant, cosmic event.
Editor's note: If you snap a great photo Lyrid meteor shower that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and observing location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The most amazing Lyrid meteor shower photos of all time
- How to see the best meteor showers of 2020
- How meteor showers work (infographic)
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.
Last night I saw about 5 meteors per hour. I did see two that were fireballs. I am looking forward to going out tomorrow morning to watch during the peak. Happy meteor watching fellow space fans!Reply
I was up all night and i did not see any meteors atall.Reply
When You Feel Like Stopping Think About Why You Started!!!!!!Star Lord said:Last night I saw about 5 meteors per hour. I did see two that were fireballs. I am looking forward to going out tomorrow morning to watch during the peak. Happy meteor watching fellow space fans!
Yes, the Lyrid meteors did perform last night and early this morning. I was out from 2300 until 0030 EDT this morning.Reply
I enjoyed great, clear skies last night with temperature 5C. Corona Borealis (seven stars) and Eta Coronae Borealis star distinct, no trouble viewing unaided eyes, limiting magnitude down to 5.6 or so where I am at in small farm fields and area. No street lighting or other lights around, much of the area darker now in surrounding regions. I enjoyed some binocular, 10x50 views of fuzzy ball, M13 in Hercules too. 5 bright Lyrids were visible shooting very fast in different directions from the radiant and a number of fainter Lyrids visible too, perhaps 4th to 5th magnitudes. The data I have on Lyrid meteors, Lyrids zip 49 km/s so shoot by quickly. The 5 bright Lyrids I saw, one as bright as Vega or near 0.0 apparent magnitude, moving eastward away from the radiant, some others 1st to 2nd magnitude I estimate. It was a good night for Lyrid meteors in small farming areas with plenty of fields, and woods vs. areas with lighting around. I notice now with the COVID-19 lockup, the sky is darker where I am at, fainter stars come out to play too (5.7 or so). Satellites and ISS pass by at 8 km/s compared to Lyrid meteors 49 km/s. Streak, zip, and gone 😊 Some Lyrid meteors streaked across Bootes past Leo and to the WSW sky, others zipped by Ursa Major moving NW. I sat outside in my *meteor chair* enjoying the time---Rod
Wife and I were out from 11:30 EST to just after 2 am. Zip, zero, nada. Some peak.Reply
I was up from 1:50 AM until 2:50 AM CDT. I saw about 15 meteors, and about three fireballs. They were very bright! It was very cool to see the ionized trail behind the fireballs. I really enjoyed this meteor shower.Reply
wow thank youReply