Stargazers are in for a treat this year. On April 22-23, 2018, you’ll be able to see the Lyrid Meteor Shower. Here are some tips on how to get the best view.
Few things compare to the beauty of a night sky crisscrossed with the bright lights of a meteor shower. Every April, the Lyrid meteor shower dazzles viewers with a spectacle of fast, bright meteors that leave behind glowing dust trains. Although there is no guarantee that bad weather or heavy clouds won’t impact viewing conditions, 2018 proves to be a promising display since there should be little interference from moonlight. Follow these preparations to give yourself the best chance for viewing these cosmic wonders.
When to Watch
The Lyrid meteors are debris left in the wake of Comet Thatcher, which orbits the sun once every 415 years. They’re among the oldest known meteor showers, with the first recorded observations dating back to 687 B.C. The Lyrid meteor shower is active during the same time frame every year, from April 16 to April 25. You might be able to view meteors any night during those dates, but the peak action day for 2018 is April 22, with an estimated 18 meteors per hour. If bad weather threatens the view, the days before and after, April 21 and April 23, could also produce a good showing. Take to the skies after midnight and before dawn, since during that time the moon will have set and viewing is optimal.
Where to See the Lyrids
The Lyrids are most visible throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in places free from artificial light and obstructions like trees or buildings. This meteor shower gets its name because it appears to originate in the Lyra constellation near the star Vega, one of the sky’s brightest stars and visible in the east. Vega appears on the horizon at 10 p.m. local time and then reaches its highest point just before dawn. Once you’ve found Vega, don’t focus your gaze there, but instead scan the sky surrounding it. This increases the chance that you’ll spot the meteors with the longest tails.
How to View the Meteor Shower
Although you might be tempted to try a close-up view through a telescope or binoculars, you don’t need any special equipment. The meteor shower is easily visible to the naked eye. In fact, scanning as much of the sky as you can without obstruction makes for a breathtaking panorama.
For optimal viewing, camp overnight at your location. Choose a campsite that is far enough away from town and city lights to offer an inky black sky. If you’re planning to drive to your viewing location, then get there at least 30 minutes early, as it takes that much time for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark. Bring a blanket or sleeping bag with you so you can lie flat on the ground, and situate your feet so they are pointing east. This puts you in the best position to spot the meteors as they soar through the sky.
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