Catch a glimpse of the Lyrids meteor shower this weekend

(CNN) After no major annual meteor showers for months, the Lyrids are here to end the drought.

Known as one of the oldest meteor showers on record, the Lyrids are expected to produce 10 to 15 meteors per hour for three nights centered around its peak of 9:06 p.m. ET on Saturday, according to EarthSky.

The Lyrids have been appearing in the sky since April 15 and will persist until April 29, but their peak is relatively narrow compared to the famous summer Perseids and other showers.

The best time to see the Lyrids – with a chance of seeing the most meteors – will be from late Saturday evening until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The good news is that an approaching new moon will leave perfect viewing conditions, with no bright light interference caused by a full moon.

“The moon will obscure all but the brightest meteors, so when there’s no lunar interference, you can see bright, faint, any meteors that appear,” said Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator. for the American Meteor Society. “The chances of surprises (with this downpour coming) are quite low, but as we don’t have a moon in the sky and this is happening on a weekend, we encourage everyone to give it a shot, check- THE.”

In an area away from light pollution, observers can expect to catch a meteor every five minutes, Lunsford said. If you’re near a city or bright lights, expect to have one every 15 minutes or so.

At times, the Lyrids exceeded expectations, with explosions of up to 100 per hour on average every 60 years. The next outburst is expected in 2042, according to the company. Although no explosions are predicted for this year, the Lyrids could still be worth it, with some of them fireballs, very bright meteors in the sky, Lunsford said.

The history of the Lyrids goes back centuries

Lyrids were first recorded in 687 BC, according to NASA, making this meteor shower one of the oldest on record.

“When people first noticed it 2,700 years ago, they only noticed it because they saw something falling from the sky. But at that time, they didn’t understand not what the meteors actually were – it took much longer,” said Peter Vereš. , an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It wasn’t until the 19th century that we somehow realized that they actually came from outer space.”

Every meteor shower has a parent comet from which the debris that makes up the shower originates. The Lyrids’ comet is called C/1861 G1 Thatcher, and it’s just over halfway through its 415-year orbit. The comet is far from Earth, but we encounter its trail of debris every year.

Due to planetary disturbances, disturbances to a planet’s orbit, denser clumps of debris occur every 60 years due to this comet’s proximity to Jupiter and Saturn, Lunsford said. This explosion is what was first recorded over 2,700 years ago.

How to see a meteor

The Lyrids may not be the most active of the annual showers. But compared to hundreds of other meteor showers that scientists have discovered using professional equipment, Vereš noted, this shower can deliver a few meteors per hour bright enough for a casual observer to see.

If you’re looking to see one of these meteors, it’s best to come out at a time when its Radiant Lyra, the constellation the meteors seem to originate from, is above the horizon. For most, it will be during the last hours before dawn. Those in the southernmost parts of the world, New Zealand and Australia, might still see meteors, but at reduced rates since Lyra doesn’t rise as high above the horizon as it does in the hemisphere. north, Lunsford said.

“Treat yourself to seeing the universe,” Vereš said. “It’s becoming increasingly rare that we have time to go out and see events like this – one reason is light pollution which prevents us from going out and seeing anything in the sky.

“It’s important to get outside sometimes and not stare at our computers and screens all the time and spend time outdoors in nature to enjoy the dark skies that (are) around us.”

More meteor showers to come

If you miss the narrow peak of the Lyrids, there are plenty of other opportunities to spot a meteor.

Here are the remaining meteor showers of 2023 and their peak dates:

• Eta Aquariids: May 5-6

• Southern Delta Aquariids: July 30 and 31

• Alpha Capricornides: July 30 and 31

• Perseids: August 12 and 13

• Orionids: October 20 and 21

• Southern Taurids: 4 and 5 November

• Northern Taurids: 11 and 12 November

• Leonids: 17 and 18 November

• Geminids: December 13 and 14

• Ursids: December 21-22

Solar and Lunar Eclipses

The most recent eclipse was a rare total annular eclipse that occurred on Wednesday but was only visible in parts of Australia, East Timor and Indonesia on its narrow passage across the ocean Indian. Although this one was hard to see, you have other chances this year to see one in your area:

If you live in North, Central, or South America, an annular solar eclipse will occur on October 14, when the moon moves past the earth’s view of the sun, creating a sharp ring of fire in the sky.

For those in Africa, Asia, and Australia, a penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on May 5, and on October 28, a partial lunar eclipse will be seen in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, parts of North America and much of South America. Lunar eclipses occur when the moon enters the Earth’s shadow and causes the lunar surface to darken.

No more full moons

The next full moon will bring the first week of May, a time for flowers – hence its name, the Flower Moon. Here is the list of full moons remaining in 2023, according to the Farmers’ Almanac:

• May 5: Flower Moon

• June 3: Strawberry Moon

• July 3: Buck moon

• August 1: Sturgeon Moon

• August 30: Blue Moon

• September 29: Harvest Moon

• October 28: Hunter’s Moon

• November 27: Beaver Moon

• December 26: Cold Moon

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