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How and when to watch the Lyrid meteor shower this weekend

Published Apr 20th, 2018 6:23PM EDT
how to watch lyrid meteor shower 2018
Image: © Robert Mikaelyan

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It’s been a little while since skywatching enthusiasts had something to get excited about. Considering how jam-packed with celestial eye candy 2017 was, it’s been a bit of a slow period as of late. That’s about to change thanks to the Lyrid meteor shower, which reaches its peak this weekend. If you want to catch some falling stars, you should have plenty of opportunity to do so.

Meteor showers in general are sometimes unpredictable, but the Lyrids have been observed for more than 2,000 years and typically put on a pretty good show. This particular meteor shower actually began on April 16th, but it grows more an more intense until its peak, which is obviously the best time to observer it. If you want to check it out, it’s incredibly easy to do so.

As EarthSky reports, the Lyrids are expected to reach their peak early Sunday morning, a few hours before the sun rises. This will be true wherever you are, and you don’t need to worry about time zones or any weird, location-specific instructions. However, EarthSky notes that the view will be best from the Northern Hemisphere:

“The higher [the constellation Vega] climbs into your sky, the more meteors you’re likely to see. Be aware that the star Vega resides quite far north of the celestial equator, so for that reason the Lyrid meteor shower favors the Northern Hemisphere.”

During its peak, the shower will produce somewhere between 10 and 20 bright streaks per hour, giving you ample opportunity to see them. Lyrid “bursts” have been observed occasionally in the past, with up to 100 meteors appearing over the course of an hour, but that is not expected to happen this time around. Nevertheless, it should be a pretty cool sight. Wait for the Moon to set if you want the best view, and kick back while staring into the heavens.

Of course, you’re also going to need a little bit of luck to see the best shower possible. Weather is even more unpredictable than meteors, and if you find yourself with an overcast sky you won’t likely see much of anything. If that happens, just hop on Twitter and check out everyone else’s pictures, because there will probably be plenty of them.