How to Watch the Brilliant Lyrid Meteor Shower This Month

Fiery streaks will illuminate the night sky from April 15-29, with the spectacle’s peak occurring from April 21-22

Dark sky meteor shower
The Lyrids are slated to peak on April 21-22, though the moon will be nearly full, which could make the meteors more difficult to see. Mario Hommes / DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The highly anticipated total solar eclipse has come and gone—but astronomy aficionados have another reason to look up this month. Starting Monday, the Lyrid meteor shower will light up the night sky around the world.

Occurring each year in mid- to late April, the Lyrids typically produce 10 to 20 bright, fast meteors per hour at their peak, but they have been known to produce heavier showers of up to 100 meteors per hour. This year, the Lyrids will run from April 15 to April 29, with the peak taking place on the evening of April 21 to the early morning hours of April 22.

Ready for another skyward spectacle? Here’s what you need to know if you’re hoping to watch the Lyrids.

Where do the meteors come from?

The Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers. Astronomers in China spotted them and made the first recorded observations of Lyrid meteors in 687 B.C.E., which means humans have been gazing upon the shower for at least 2,700 years, according to NASA.

As with other meteor showers, the Lyrids occur when Earth passes through the debris field of a comet—in this case, it’s the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The comet is named after A. E. Thatcher, an amateur astronomer who first observed it on April 5, 1861.

C/1861 G1 Thatcher has a long trip around the sun—it takes the comet more than 415 years to complete a full orbit. This drawn-out journey means the year of its discovery—1861—was also the last time the comet Thatcher made its closest approach to the sun, known as the perihelion. The next time Thatcher will enter the inner solar system will be around the year 2278, according to EarthSky.

Stunning View of Lyrids and Earth at Night

As the comet hurtles through space, it leaves behind a trail of dust and rock. When the Earth passes through Thatcher’s path, some of those pieces enter the atmosphere and burn up, creating fiery streaks of light in the process—which are often referred to as “shooting stars.” Lyrid meteors typically fly through the atmosphere at speeds of 29 miles per second, per NASA.

To viewers on Earth, the Lyrids appear to originate near the constellation Lyra, a point known as the shower’s radiant. Lyra’s brightest star—and one of the brightest stars in the sky, period—is Vega, which can make the constellation easy to find.

Most years, the Lyrids produce an average of 18 meteors per hour at their peak. But certain years have rare outbursts—in 1803, 1922, 1945 and 1982, the Lyrids produced upwards of 100 meteors per hour.

The timing of these outbursts is erratic and hard to predict. Some people have said they happen periodically, with roughly the same amount of time between each one, but “the data doesn’t support that,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke tells’s Daisy Dobrijevic.

Tips for viewing the Lyrid meteor shower

Milky Way with meteors
The Lyrids appear to originate from near the constellation Lyra. Daniel Reinhardt / dpa / AFP via Getty Images

The Lyrids are not as bright as the August Perseids, nor as fast as the Leonids in November. But they’re worth watching all the same.

This year, unfortunately, the Lyrids’ peak will align with a nearly full moon. That extra light will make it harder—but not impossible—to see the meteors in the night sky. In April, the full moon is called the Pink Moon, and it will occur on April 23, just after the shower’s peak. Sky watchers will have to contend with a bright waxing gibbous moon during the most prolific phase of the shower.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of a shooting star or two during the Lyrids, all you really need to do is head outside after dark and look up. To improve your visibility, however, it’s helpful to travel to an area with very little light pollution—like a certified Dark Sky Place, a national park or some other wilderness area. Wear warm clothes and bring a chair that lets you recline comfortably (or a blanket, so you can lie on the ground). Plan to spend periods of at least 30 to 60 minutes looking at the night sky, per BBC Sky at Night Magazine’s Iain Todd.

Give your eyes 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, and try to use red lights (instead of white lights) whenever possible. This also means you should try to avoid looking at your phone screen before and during your meteor-watching experience.

You might be tempted to stare in the direction of the Lyra constellation, but experts recommend letting your eyes roam around the entire sky. Keep your eyes peeled for fireballs, or occasional bright flashes produced by the Lyrids.

“It is actually better to view the Lyrids away from their radiant: They will appear longer and more spectacular from this perspective,” according to NASA. “If you do look directly at the radiant, you will find that the meteors will be short—this is an effect of perspective called foreshortening.”

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