Now that April is here, it’s time to prepare for the annual Lyrid meteor shower.
It’s the second meteor shower of the year and is expected to peak “extremely early in the morning on Monday, April 22,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com.
Meteoroid, meteor or meteorite?
Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, told Space.com that a meteoroid is essentially space debris. For example, the “crumbs” left behind from a comet’s trail are meteoroids.
These “crumbs” can also be left behind by asteroids, such as the 3200 Phaethon.
Once the meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors (or shooting stars). Though most meteors disintegrate before hitting the ground, meteors that do strike the surface of the planet are called meteorites, Cooke said.
What are the Lyrids?
The Lyrids are the dust trail of Comet Thatcher, which orbits the sun every 415 years (it won’t be back until 2276). Although the comet won’t be seen in our lifetime, the debris left in its wake — the Lyrid shower— appears every year as the Earth crosses the comet’s path. That’s why they are seen about the same time every year.
Where to look
The point at which the meteors originate, called the radiant, will be in the constellation Lyra. Lyra, for which the meteor shower is named, will be high in the sky to the northeast of Vega.
Space.com recommends not directly looking toward the radiant, however, because you might miss the meteors with the longest tails.
"The moon will be really favorable for them this year; it will set by the time the Lyrid radiant is high in the sky," Cooke told Space.com.
When to see them
The Lyrid meteor shower is usually active between April 16 and 25 every year. It tends to peak around April 22 or 23. For the position of the Lyrids radiant each night, timeanddate.com has an interactive meteor shower sky map you can check out.
How to watch the meteor shower
Clear skies are essential for prime meteor shower viewing. Skyglow, the light pollution caused by localized street lights, will block out the stars and negatively affect your viewing experience, so head somewhere far from city lights.
Georgians can head to anywhere in North Georgia, including Hiawassee and Young Harris. Popular stargazing parks include Hard Labor Creek State Park, Black Rock Mountain State Park, Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center and Deerlick Astronomy Village.
When you’re outside in the dark, lie flat on your back with your feet facing south and look up at the vast sky. Give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the environment.
Be sure to being warm clothing, a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair, and leave your telescope at home.
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