April showers bring meteors by the hour

The meteor doldrums of winter come to a close with the return of the annual Lyrids, which peak April 22.
By | Published: April 18, 2006 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

Take a look
All you need to observe a meteor shower is your eyes – and a lawn chair if you don’t want to strain your neck. Some people enjoy counting the number of meteors per hour, either by jotting down ticks on a notepad or talking into a tape recorder. Observing a meteor shower can be a great social event, so get some people together Friday night and make it a party.

April showers
Spring’s warm weather makes the Lyrids the start of meteor-watching season. Watch for the Eta Aquarids later in the month. They’ll be visible starting April 19, with a May 6 peak best seen from the Southern Hemisphere. This is one of two showers derived from Halley’s Comet (the other is the Orionids in October).

What’s happening
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris left by a passing comet or asteroid. For the Lyrids, the parent comet is C/1861 G1, whose debris enters our atmosphere at some 108,000 mph, a modest speed by meteor standards. Air friction incinerates the dust-size particles, creating the bright but brief flashes of light we see as meteors.
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Also in the sky:
  • Planets visible in the night sky April 18-25: Mars, Saturn, Jupiter
  • April 18 – Venus meets Uranus in the predawn sky April 18, 10° above the eastern horizon at about 5:30 A.M. local time.
  • April 20 – Last Quarter Moon occurs at 11:28 P.M. EDT
  • April 22 – The Moon passes 4° south of Neptune
  • April 22 – Lyrid meteor shower peaks
  • April 23 – The Moon passes 1.2° south of Uranus at 10:00 P.M. EDT
  • For more information, contact:
    Matt Quandt
    Assistant editor
    Astronomy magazine
    [t] 262.796.8776 x419
    [e] mquandt@astronomy.com

    April 18, 2006

    Astronomy offers publication-quality images below.

    WAUKESHA, WI – The Lyrid meteor shower peaks the night of April 21/22. After midnight, as many as 20 meteors an hour will streak across the sky. The shower’s radiant, the point in the sky where they appear to shoot from, lies in the constellation Lyra the Lyre. The waning crescent Moon will stay out of the way that night, so the sky will be dark – and the show should be good. For several nights before and after the peak, fewer meteors will be visible.