Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. This particular meteor shower has been seen each April for more than 2600 years making it one of the oldest known meteor showers. If forecasters are correct, April’s top meteor shower will peak late tomorrow night with 10 to 20 meteors visible per hour. The best time to look for the meteors is between 11 pm on Saturday night and sunrise on Sunday. In the Northern Hemisphere, Lyra will rise in the northeastern sky in the early evening and move nearly directly overhead during the night. Skies should be clear-to-partly cloudy in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it’ll be pretty cold with temperatures likely in the 30’s.
The Lyrids are quite unpredictable and have a history of putting on surprising performances. In 1982 and way back in 1922, the shower delivered a reported 90 meteors per hour. Typically, Lyrids produce a gratifying number of fireballs, which is somewhat surprising since their relatively moderate speeds of 30 miles per second is only about 75 percent that of the August Perseids or November Leonids. The Lyrids radiant point is about 10 degrees southwest of the blue-white star Vega. The Lyrid meteor shower lasts from roughly April 16-26 each year, but it is best seen on only about two nights. One final note: While the moon will arrive at first-quarter phase on April 22, it will have set by 2 a.m. on Sunday, leaving the sky dark and moonless for at least two and a half hours before the first light of dawn, providing a good backdrop for viewing this faithful meteor display.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian