Typically the first good meteor shower of the year, the Lyrids run from April 16-25 and produce some 10-20 meteors per hour at their peak on April 22-23. This will be a good year for the Lyrids because the Moon will be a slender waxing crescent and will not get in the way of seeing these meteors. Although the timing this year may favor observers in Europe, the Lyrids are visible for observers in most parts of the world. Slooh will run a live show on the Lyrids on April 22, 2015.
Meteors from the Lyrids appear to trace their paths back to a radiant about 10º southwest of bright blue-white Vega, a star which northern stargazers can see rising in the northeast by 10 p.m. in mid April. The radiant actually lies in what’s now the constellation Hercules, but the shower was named before the constellation boundaries were formalized in the early-20th century.
The Lyrids are sandgrain-sized pieces of dust and ice left over from the long-period Comet C/1861 Thatcher. The comet returns to Earth every 415 years, so the Lyrids has been observed for thousands of years. Because of the gravitational influence of the planets, the Lyrids surprise to the upside every 60 years or so. In 1982 and 1922, observers noted some 90 meteors per hour. In 1803, the Lyrids produced a storm of some 700 meteors per hour. The same happened in 687 B.C. when Chinese stargazers noted “at midnight, stars dropped down like rain.” This was one of the earliest recorded sightings of a meteor shower.
The Lyrids can appear anywhere in the sky, so you don’t need to look towards the radiant. Your best bet is to look for meteors near the peak of the shower after midnight on April 22 and into the early morning of April 23. You don’t need a telescope or binoculars. Just grab a good chair or blanket, lie back and look up. And join Slooh for a discussion and live show on April 22, 2015.