The Lyrid meteor shower may not be one of the most intense meteor showers you can have in the night sky, however, it is still a sight to see. The Lyrids meteor shower typically starts on April 16 and continues through to the April 26. This shower reaches its peak on the 21 and 22 of the month. During maximum intensity, an average of 10 meteors per hour can be observed.
Lyrids have been putting on their own private show in the sky for quite a long time. Astronomers believe that the first Lyrids were identified almost 2600 years ago by Chinese astronomers. This makes the Lyrids the first meteors to be “discovered”. Lyrids are especially fascinating in the fact that they have been known to exhibit bursts of as much as 100 meteors per hour. The reason for this burst is not yet clear to the astronomers. The best way to identify a Lyrid is by mentally tracing it’s origin when you see one. If the shower originates from the constellation Lyra, then you have most definitely seen a Lyrid.
What is a meteoroid?
To understand Lyrids, it is imperative that you fully understand meteoroids. Basically, meteoroids are bits of rocks hurdling through space that ignite once they enter the earth’s atmosphere. The Lyrid meteors and the Perseids are made up of rock particles and ice originating from comets. The reason why meteors increase in numbers during certain times of the year is because the earth is crossing the path of certain comets, which blow these dust particles into the earth’s path. When meteors enter into the earth atmosphere, they have the ability to move at speeds of up to 160,000 miles per hour. This high speed has the effect of making air compress in front of the meteor. The result is that the meteoroid becomes vaporized..
Why April is the best time to see the Lyrids
During the month of April 2012, the new moon will ensure that there will be a dark sky during the nighttime hours through to morning. These conditions make up the best scenario for watching Lyrid showers. Historically, out of the nighttime hours from dusk until sunrise, the meteors are best observed during the morning hours with peak viewing times starting around 3 AM, no matter where you are located on the planet. This is the best time to witness this spectacular display since the earth’s orbital motion rests in the direction of the terminator.