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Lyrid meteor shower to peak on Earth Day weekend

By Brian Lada, Accuweather.com
In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during a meteor shower in 2021. File Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA
In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during a meteor shower in 2021. File Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

The first meteor shower in over three months is about to grace the night sky, and it could be the best display of shooting stars until the dog days of summer are over.

Weekend stargazers will be treated to the annual Lyrids, a fitting conclusion to Earth Day, on Saturday night into early Sunday morning. It will end a meteor shower drought that started over 100 days earlier once the Quadrantids concluded on Jan. 3.

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"When compared to the normal low activity seen during the late winter and early spring nights, the nights around April 23 offer a nice bit of entertainment," the American Meteor Society explained on its website.

A meteor streaks through the night sky. Photo courtesy of Pexels/Ivan Jaimes

This year's installment of the Lyrids will be the best in three years, as the moon will not interfere with viewing conditions. In 2021 and 2022, bright moonlight outshined the annual springtime sky event, washing out all but the brightest meteors. This year, the shower will reach its climax two nights after a new moon, resulting in a dark, moonless night for the event.

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The show will begin around 10 p.m., local time, Saturday night, and will showcase up to 15 shooting stars per hour from dark areas through early Sunday morning. Onlookers in areas with human-made light pollution may only be able to spot a few meteors per hour.

"Serious observers should watch for at least an hour, as numerous peaks and valleys of activity will occur," the AMS explained. "If you only view for a short time, it may coincide with a lull of activity. Watching for at least an hour guarantees you will get to see the best this display has to offer."

For the best chance at seeing shooting stars, experts recommend going to a location where there is a wide view of the night sky, including an unobstructed view of the northeastern sky, where the meteors appear to originate. Folks do not need to focus solely on this region to see the shower, but having the radiant point somewhere in the field of view will help bolster the chances of spotting meteors.

More than half of the United States is predicted to have cloud-free conditions for the peak of the Lyrids, including most of the Plains, Southeast and Southwest. The only area of the western United States where the weather will be of concern is across parts of Washington, Oregon and the Rocky Mountains.

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Clouds will be a widespread disruption for most of the Midwest and East Coast as a far-reaching storm extends from the Tennessee Valley, over the Appalachians and into Canada. However, there could be a gap in the clouds over most of the Gulf Coast and into the Carolinas for onlookers to spot some shooting stars.

The Lyrids will continue into Sunday night, giving stargazers with poor weather conditions Saturday night another opportunity to spot some meteors. However, the hourly rates may be cut in half compared to the 15 meteors per hour expected earlier in the weekend.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will follow the Lyrids on the night of May 5 into the morning of May 6, although it will be more difficult to watch. Unlike the Lyrids, the Eta Aquarids will peak on the same night as a full moon, with the blazing moonlight outshining many of the meteors.

July will feature a pair of minor meteor showers that will supply an extra sparkle to the summer sky. However, the duo will pale in comparison to the highly anticipated Perseid meteor shower in mid-August that boasts up to 100 shooting stars per hour.

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