April 23, 2024


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How do you see the Lyrids meteor shower this weekend?

Skywatchers have been hungry for shooting stars since the start of the new year. But this weekend, the Lyrid meteor shower, which has been teasing sky viewers since mid-April, will put on a full show Saturday evening and into early Sunday morning. The showers can still be seen in spectacular glimpses through the end of April.

One of the oldest known meteor showers, Lyrid reliably appears each April when Earth passes through a debris field left by a comet in 1861. Small particles, about the size of a piece of sand, heat up as they are met by friction from Earth’s atmosphere and then begin to light up, creating a meteor. Bright meteors — and the occasional fireball — caused by debris explosions, move quickly across the sky and leave without a trace or trace.

People around the world may be able to see 15 to 20 meteors per hour at the peak – only about five meteors per hour will be visible in the days after the peak.

The meteor show, which appears to radiate from the constellation Lyra, will be in full swing starting at 9 p.m. Saturday for people on the East Coast, according to American Meteorite Society.

NASA Ambassador Tony Rice dubbed this year’s show a “favorable meteor shower” because of the favorable timing, favorable outside temperatures, and comfortable viewing opportunities.

For the best viewing, Rice suggests watching the sun set toward the western sky, waiting until dark, then turning to the northeast sky to look for meteors. Rice said meteors will rise from the horizon.

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After the new moon on Thursday, there will be no visible full moon in the sky this weekend to interfere with the view of the shooting stars. The dark sky will act as a canvas for the short streaks of light.

Weather Struggle: Cool air invades the Lower 48 after the summer’s warmth

On Friday night, low pressure over the Great Lakes and Ontario will keep pesky clouds around. Clouds will also prevail around and just before a cold front in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Ohio Valley, and the Southeast. Behind the front, a sharp clearing line would hover over the central and lower Mississippi Valley, the Gulf Coast west of Alabama, and the Ozarks and southern plains. Chicago and the Corn Belt may see some clearing, but it will depend on how fast the original low pressure system moves.

Things get more complicated in Oklahoma, the Rocky Mountains, the Intermountain West and the West Coast. Cirrus clouds in the air are likely to flare up in the jet stream. While it wouldn’t be enough to completely obscure the night sky, the faint clouds would likely hinder observing the stars and spotting any meteors. There will be plenty of gaps in cloud cover, but predicting where they will be will be impossible on this time scale. Southern Arizona and New Mexico, however, should have clear skies.

By Saturday night, the same system of low pressure and cold front is expected to operate over the eastern United States in northern Michigan and southeastern Ontario. Clear skies will spread over most of the Southeast, the mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, New York state, and the Midwest. The system will still hang around New England with continuous clouds.

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The Northern Plains and Northern Rockies should see mostly clear conditions, but the Southern Plains and Texas will get under cloud cover.

Central and southern California and the desert southwest appear mostly clear except for isolated, patchy high clouds. The approaching low pressure system is expected to spread clouds over the northwest Pacific Ocean.

Jeff Chester, an astronomer from the Naval Observatory, said the spectacle is a “naked eye” event, which means there is no equipment necessary to enjoy the view. Fireballs can even be spotted in cities, despite the light pollution.

In the past, the Lyrids have been known to have short bursts of 100 meteors per hour, Rice said, but such possibilities are “possible, but not likely” this year. These rapid eruptions occur every 20 to 60 years. The next expected Lyrid eruption, which features an unexpectedly large number of meteors, is due in 2042, according to EarthSky.

If you want to see shooting stars, you may have to be patient. It may take your eyes 10 to 15 minutes to adjust to the dark sky before you see a meteor.

“I’m just excited to be able to go outside and look at a meteor shower when it’s warm outside, and not have to set an alarm to do it,” said Rice.