BOSTON (CBS) — Need a break from all this lousy weather? I think we all do! Well, not only is the weather looking MUCH better in the days ahead but there is also something fun to look for in the sky this weekend – the Lyrid Meteor Shower.
The Lyrids come each and every April when the Earth passes through the trail of dust left by Comet Thatcher. Typically the Lyrid Shower is rated as an average show, not one of the most vibrant but still a great chance to see a dozen or more shooting stars per hour.
So what do you have to do to catch a glimpse? It’s easy!
The show peaks late Saturday night. Up to 20 meteors per hour are possible, mainly after midnight (when the Moon sets).
If you can’t see the show Saturday night, give it a shot late Friday night or again late on Sunday night. While the show won’t be at peak, there is still a decent shot of seeing a few meteors streaking across the sky.
The absolute best time to view would be the few hours before dawn on Sunday morning.
The Lyrids radiate outward from the constellation Lyra (hence the name). Lyra rises in the northeastern sky early in the evenings this weekend and will be directly overhead overnight. The Lyra constellation contains one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky: Vega.
Don’t worry too much about looking for Lyra though, the meteors will fan out in all directions. All you really need to do is find a dark location, away from any artificial light, lie back and enjoy! If you wanna get the best possible view though, I would recommend lying down facing to the east.
Ever wonder what exactly you are looking at while watching a meteor shower?
These meteors are very small pieces of cosmic dust and debris left behind after a comet passes through. The dazzling space debris known as the Lyrids was left behind in 1861, the last time Comet Thatcher passed by. So why the bright fireballs? The specks of dust reach temperatures of nearly 3,000 degrees as they burn up in our atmosphere leaving an ionized glowing gas in its wake. And oh, if you are wondering when Comet Thatcher will make a return trip…don’t hold your breath. It won’t be back until the year 2276.
If you can’t catch this show, no worries, there are plenty of great meteor showers ahead!
Next up, the Eta Aquarids on May 6-7.
Then, perhaps the best show of the year, the Perseids, arrive on August 13.
And perhaps the best news of all, the weather won’t ruin our fun! Skies should be mainly clear Saturday night making for great viewing!
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ