Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tonight's Sky for April 22-23: Lyrid Meteors Peak

Tonight/tomorrow morning will mark the peak of the Lyrid Meteor shower for 2015, thus marking the climax for the 2-week event. Every April, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk shed by Comet C1861 G Thatcher, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see 15 meteors per hour. The reason the meteors are called Lyra is because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Lyra. The best time to view the shower is in the wee hours of the morning, as Lyra is at its highest then.

Don't want to stay up that late? Don't worry, Lyra clears the Eastern horizon around midnight and will climb higher as the night progresses. However, unless one lives out in the country, the early post-midnight hours will probably involve Lyra being low in a light dome. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of the city and to the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent.

Fortunately, this year's Lyrid peak coincides with the waxing crescent Moon, which means that nature's night light will be a non-issue early and out of the sky completely by the wee hours of the morning when Lyra is at its highest. 

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