The Lyrids meteor shower peaks after midnight on April 21 and continues through the early morning hours of April 22, but can be viewed after midnight until the April 26th. This shower typically produces 10 to 20 fast moving meteors per hour with dust trails that remain visible for several seconds. Meteors appear nearly as bright at the brightest stars in the big dipper creating a brilliant burst of light. An early setting quarter moon promises dark skies for viewing. Although considered an average meteor shower, Lyrids Meteor Showers are unpredictable and have produced spectacular shows on several occasions. According to Meteor Showers Online the reason for sudden bursts of meteors is unknown. Each year holds the potential for a repeat performance.
NASA reports that over 90 meteors per hour were reported in 1982 when viewers observed a sudden burst of meteors during the Lyrids showers.
Accounts dating back to 1803 claim a flurry of activity. Andrew Fazekas reports in National Geographic News that astronomer Anthony from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles stated that “In 1803 the shower produced about a thousand meteors per hour”
NASA Science News also reports a spectacular display in 1803 as reported by eyewitnesses “starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets…” and notes that one observer counted 167 meteors in 5 minutes.
Although a fiery display of this magnitude is not predicted to occur this year, scientists are unable to determine the cause of the increased activity in prior years making prediction of actual numbers of meteors difficult. Based on average Lyrids Shower activity, viewers can expect 10 to 20 bright meteors per hour during the predawn hours.
Named for the constellation they radiate from, the Lyrids Meteor Showers radiate from the constellation Lyra located in the north eastern sky.
Dress warmly. Night time temperatures drop quickly at this time of year and may feel even colder if wind is present. For prolonged nighttime viewing protective clothing is required.
Seek a dark area free from stray light from streetlights or buildings. For best observation total darkness is recommended. If you can see all the stars in the big dipper the area is dark enough for meteor viewing.
Take a chair or blanket and recline so you are facing the north eastern sky.