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How to see the Lyrid meteor shower, known for its bright fireballs

Apr 20, 2019 07:03AM ● By Editor

This stunning image is a four-shot pano from the Trona Pinnacles in the California Desert National Conservation Area.  "I managed to get Mars, Jupiter and several Perseid meteors in this series of shots," says photographer Tom Grubbe.

By Eric Mack of - April 20, 2019

The first big meteor shower in more than three months peaks Sunday and Monday night when the Lyrids may light up spring skies over the northern hemisphere.

Shooting star spotters will be at a bit of a disadvantage because the moon will still be nearly full Sunday and Monday (April's full moon, sometimes called a "pink moon," is on the 19th this year). 

All that moonlight may wash out the less bright meteors, but the Lyrids are known for producing bright fireballs. In fact, there's already been some elevated fireball activity since the Lyrids officially became active, earlier this week.

The American Meteor Society says you can expect to see a handful of meteors per hour despite the less than ideal viewing conditions. It's worth checking to see when the moon will rise and set in your location and planning your meteor watching around the few hours of moonless night skies you might have. For example, the moon will rise after 10 p.m. Sunday in Los Angeles, making around 9 p.m. probably the best time to try to see the show.

To catch the Lyrid meteor shower, you'll want to get as far away from light pollution as you can, hope for cloudless skies and then just lie on your back, look up and relax. It might take some time for your eyes to adjust to the dark. You don't really need to look at any particular part of the sky. It's actually best to have a vantage point that gives you the widest view of the night sky possible -- big open fields or parks are great. 

Like most other meteor showers, the Lyrids happen each year when the Earth drifts through a cloud of debris left behind by a visiting comet. In this case, the little bits of cosmic crumbs burning high in our atmosphere were left by Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), which hasn't been seen since the 19th century and won't be back until the 23rd. 

The odds are that this won't be the best meteor shower of 2019, but there's always the chance of an outburst that produces hundreds of meteors per hour, as well as those bright fireballs that've already been seen.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here