When and how to watch the Lyrid meteor shower
As Earth passes through the trail of a comet Monday, April 16, through Wednesday, April 25, observers in the northern hemisphere, including Pennsylvania, could get a good look at the Lyrid meteor shower.
The peak of the shower will arrive in the early morning hours on Sunday, April 22.
The Lyrids generally are not one of the showier meteor showers. They typically appear at 10-20 per hour, but in some heavy years observers have reported more than 100 per hour.
A particularly active shower in 1803 led a Richmond, Virginia, newspaper reporter to comment, “From 1 until 3 in the morning, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets.”
The Lyrids are debris from Comet Thatcher, which was officially discovered and named by A.E. Thatcher on its most recent approach to the solar system in 1861. It’s expected back in 2276.
While they didn’t note the comet, Chinese astronomers recorded the Lyrid meteors as early as 687 B.C.
The Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which gives the shower its name, but they are best viewed with by looking away from the radiant. They are known for trailing luminous dust trains that remain visible for several seconds.