AccuWeather.com meteorologists continue to monitor sky cover for the viewing possibilities of the Lyrids, the first major meteor shower since early January.
The shower continues to be visible through April 26 after peaking during the predawn hours of Monday, April 22. While the Lyrids average 10 to 20 meteors an hour, AccuWeather's Mark Paquette said there is potential for significantly more.
"It is unpredictable," Paquette said. "Sometimes lyrids have 'surges' which can break up the rate to near 100 per hour."
Lyrids captured April 22, 2013 in New Hampshire. Photo by Garrett Evans
Paquette explained that the Lyrids, named for their location in the constellation Lyra, form as the Earth passes through the tail of Comet Thatcher. The meteors are bits of the comet's tail, usually no bigger than grains of sand, that strike the atmosphere at 49 kilometers a second. As they travel through our atmosphere, they disintegrate as streaks of light, possibly casting a shadow before leaving behind smoke-like trail of debris.
"Lyrid meteors are typically as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper, which is to say, middling brightness, but some are more intense, even brighter than Venus," Paquette said.
A Lyrid meteor photographed over Brookfield, Conn., on April 20, 2013. Photo by Chuck Eggen.
The "Lyrid fireballs" originate in the sky near the star Vega, Lyra's brightest star. Predawn hours offer the best view of the meteors as Vega sits nearly overhead. In the evenings the shower sits closer to the horizon, blocking many of them from view. The waxing moon will also light up the sky until after midnight, dimming the sight of the meteors. However, the moon sets before dawn, so its brightness will not hinder the view of the shower when it moves into its peak positional hours.
Forecast for Wednesday into Thursday. Last updated April 23 at 10 a.m.
The last day to see the meteor shower until April 2014 will be this Thursday morning, April 25, with possible "stragglers" dotting the sky through Friday morning, April 26.
"The morning, predawn hours will continue to be best time [for viewing the Lyrids], but they will be visible at basically anytime," Paquette said. "For predawn, look overhead. Before midnight you want to face southeast. Because they are now off peak there will be fewer of them."
He recommends moving away from areas with light pollution and setting up in a comfortable position that won't strain your neck to look up.
Be sure to check back for updated conditions, as well as for the conditions of other days as the meteor shower's timeline progresses. For more updates, like us on Facebook at AccuWeather.com Astronomy.
Meteorologist Steve Travis contributed to this article.
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