Science

The Lyrid meteor shower, the first major meteor shower of 2023, will peak in late April

As the spring weather warms up, the 2023 meteor shower season will intensify, with two major meteor showers in late April and early May.

The season will kick off with the Lyrid meteor shower – with some meteors becoming visible on April 15. But the shower is expected to reach its peak and generate its greatest number of shooting stars during the late hours of April 21 in the pre-dawn hours of April 22, and then again between the evening hours of April 22 and the dawn on April 23, according to astronomy experts.

Although not as dazzling as the annual summer Perseids, the Lyrid meteor shower can occasionally have an unexpected burst of dozens of meteors per hour, according to astronomers at EarthSky.org.

Although such high numbers are rare, the low amount of moonlight during this year’s peak could increase the number of meteors visible. The moon will go through its crescent-crescent phase, so it will only be 2% illuminated on April 21, just 6% on April 22, and 12% on April 23, according to MoonGiant.com.

Sky & Telescope experts expect 10 to 20 meteors per hour to be visible in dark places during the pre-dawn hours on April 23. Others, like EarthSky, say skywatchers could see 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour this year “under ideal conditions, in dark, moonless skies.

“As with most meteor showers, the peak time will be before dawn, but the Lyrids will become visible beginning around 10:30 p.m. local time,” Space.com said in this guide to when to see the Lyrid meteor shower.

“Lyrids are known for their fast, bright meteors,” NASA noted. “Lyrids don’t tend to leave behind long, glowing dust trains as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere, but they can occasionally produce a bright flash called a fireball.”

The shooting stars in the Lyrid meteor shower are actually tiny dust particles that make up the tail of an old comet called Comet Thatcher. Meteors become visible from Earth when our planet passes through the comet debris field.

Eta Aquariids meteor shower in May

The outlook isn’t as good for the Eta Aquariids meteor shower in early May, with peak activity during the pre-dawn hours of May 6 coinciding with the full moon.

When the sky is dark, this meteor shower normally generates up to 20 to 40 shooting stars per hour, according to Sky & Telescope. But the so-called “flower moon” will be full in the afternoon of May 5, so it will shine brightly on May 6.

Moonlight will likely make it “difficult to spot all but the brightest shooting stars,” according to an AccuWeather astronomer writer. com.

However, all hope is not lost. A NASA astronomy expert told Space.com that even with moonlight, “Eta Aquariids should not be missed due to the possibility of a large explosion.”

Skywatchers can spot the Lyrid meteor shower – which is expected to peak and generate its greatest number of shooting stars during the late hours of April 21 through the pre-dawn hours of April 22, then again between the evening hours on April 22 and at dawn on April 23, astronomy experts say.

Heavy summer meteor showers

Sky & Telescope experts say strong moonlight could also block the view of the Delta Aquariids meteor shower when it peaks on July 30. show later this summer.

The Perseid Shower is expected to peak during the pre-dawn hours on August 13, with up to 90 meteors per hour visible in dark locations. On this day, the moon will only be 8% illuminated, in its waning crescent phase.

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Len Melisurgo can be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.

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