Flakes of comet dust striking the Earth's atmosphere at supersonic speeds will create a spectacular night-sky show beginning April 16.
The annual Lyrid meteor shower debuts Tuesday night. It peaks Saturday night, April 20 with 10 to 20 meteors per hour, although outbursts as high as 100 meteors per hour are possible, according to SpaceWeather.com.
Local stargazers, the National Weather Service forecasts clouds at the beginning for the week for Los Alamitos and Seal Beach, but predicts the clear at least the day before the April 20 peak.
The last big meteor shower was the Quadrantids in early January, when clouds threatened to obscure the show and cold weather made the adventure harder with kids. But it's spring now, meaning you can treat meteor shower-watching like fireworks viewing:
- Pack some lawn chairs and blankets so you can get comfortable.
- Find dark skies away from the glare of city lights.
- Bring something warm to drink.
- Lean back and enjoy the show.
- Remember there will be lulls and spurts of action. Be patient.
Lyrid is among the oldest and most reliable meteor showers. Some 2,700 years ago, the ancient Chinese observed the Lyrid meteors “falling like rain” in the year 687 BC.
The meteor shower appears to radiate from Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra. But the meteors have nothing to do with the constellation. The cosmic show is created when Earth passes through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher.
Check out the NASA video above to learn more about Lyrid.
Expect the most meteors in the hours before dawn Sunday, April 21. That's because the moon is waxing and its brightness may interfere with gazing at the shooting stars earlier in the night.
The meteor shower will taper off after the weekend, but continue through April 25—the next full moon.