One of the oldest known meteor showers, the Lyrid appears reliably every April when it passes Earth in the debris field left by a comet in 1861. Small particles, the size of a grain of sand, heat up when they meet by friction. It then begins to radiate from Earth’s atmosphere, forming a meteorite. Bright meteors — and the occasional fireball — are caused by exploding debris, moving quickly through the sky and leaving without a trace or a trail.
People around the world can see 15 to 20 meteors per hour during the peak – only five per hour in the days following the peak.
The meteor show from the Lyra constellation will be in full swing for those on the East Coast starting at 9pm on Saturday. American Meteorological Society.
NASA Ambassador Tony Rice dubbed this year’s event a “convenient meteor shower” because of the convenient timing, comfortable outdoor temperatures and convenient viewing opportunities.
For the best view, Rice recommends watching the sunset toward the western sky, waiting until dark, and then looking for meteors toward the northeastern sky. Rice said the meteors would shoot up from the horizon.
After Thursday’s new moon, there will be no visible moon in the sky this weekend. The dark sky acts as a canvas for narrow streaks of light.
Weather Whip: Cold air invades the Lower 48 after summer heat
Friday night, low pressure will keep pesky clouds around the Great Lakes and Ontario. Clouds will be around and ahead of the cold front in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Ohio Valley, and the Southeast. Behind the front, a sharp clear line hovers over the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, the Gulf Coast west of Alabama, the Ozarks, and the southern Plains. Chicago and the Corn Belt may see some clarity, but it depends on how quickly the mother low pressure system moves.
Things get tricky in Oklahoma, the Rockies, the Intermountain West and the West Coast. Cirrus clouds are blown upward in the jet stream. Although not enough to completely obscure the night sky, wispy clouds can hinder seeing the stars and spotting any meteors. There will be many gaps in the cloud cover, but predicting where they will be is not possible at this timescale. Southern Arizona and New Mexico should enjoy clear skies.
By Saturday night, the same low pressure system and cold front over the eastern United States is expected to work its way into northern Michigan and southeastern Ontario. Clear skies spread across the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, New York State, and the Midwest. The system will still hang around New England with continued cloud cover.
The northern Plains and northern Rockies should see mostly clear conditions, but the southern Plains and Texas will remain under cloud cover.
Central and southern California and the desert Southwest will be mostly clear except for isolated patchy clouds. An approaching low pressure system is expected to spread clouds over the Pacific Northwest.
The display was a “naked eye” event, meaning no equipment was needed to enjoy the display, said Jeff Chester, an astronomer at the Naval Observatory. Despite the light pollution, fireball displays can be seen even in cities.
In the past, the Lyrids have been known to have small bursts of up to 100 meteors per hour, but those odds are “possible, but unlikely” this year, Rice said. Those rapid eruptions happen every 20 to 60 years. The next predicted Lyrid eruption, characterized by an unexpectedly large number of meteors, is due in 2042 Earthsky.
If you want to see shooting stars, you have to be patient. It may take 10 to 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark sky before you can see meteors.
“I’m really happy to be able to go outside and watch the meteor shower when it’s warm outside and I don’t have to set my alarm to do it,” Rice said.