Mark your calendars for April 19 because the oldest recorded meteor shower is going to be visible in the night sky. The Lyrid meteor shower was first recorded by ancient Chinese astronomers in 687 B.C., according to EarthSky.org, and the shower of meteors was described as ‘falling like rain.” Hopefully, this year’s shower will be just as beautiful.
The Lyrid meteor shower occurs every year between April 16 and April 25, and this year it’s expected to peak in the predawn hours of April 22, though the shower will be visible from April 19 through April 25.
The meteors originate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, hence the name “Lyrid,” near the star Vega. But the source of the Lyrid meteors is actually Comet Thatcher. In April of each year, Earth crosses the orbital path of Thatcher, and fragments of the comet enter our atmosphere at about 110,000 miles per hour — the fragments are the Lyrid meteors.
EarthSky.org estimates that we’ll be able to see about 10 to 15 meteors per hour during the peak of the shower on April 22, with about a quarter of the total amount of Lyrids leaving beautiful trains of ionized gas behind them as they burn up.
The best way to observe the Lyrid meteor shower is if you do so away from city lights and in the wee hours of the morning. The star Vega rises in the Northern Hemisphere between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. between April 16 and April 25, which means meteors will begin to make appearances in the hours following.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch a glimpse of a Lyrid meteor this year. The Eta Aquariids are expected to take the stage in early May, which will be most visible by those in the Southern Hemisphere, and Northern Hemisphere stargazers will get to see the Delta Aquariids in Late July.