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While all eyes have been on Mars this year, it's time to look in another direction — at the Lyra constellation, to be specific. This month, the skies will light up with the Lyrid meteor shower, which will run from roughly April 16 through 25. Don't miss your chance to see some shooting stars this month, as the next major meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere isn't until this summer (though there will be a few minor ones between now and then). Here's everything you need to know about the Lyrids.
What is the Lyrid meteor shower?
The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest on record; in 687 B.C., Chinese astronomers noted, "In the middle of the night, stars fell like rain." We see this meteor annually in April as we pass through the dust trail behind comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which circles the sun once every 415 years.
While the Lyrids are a medium-scale shower in terms of the number of meteors, they're known for producing quite a few fireballs, which are shooting stars that flash brightly and leave a long-lasting streak across the sky.
When is the Lyrid meteor shower?
There's a chance you can spot a meteor any time between April 16 and 25, but the full shower peaks on the night of April 21 into the early morning hours of April 22. Your best chances of seeing shooting stars will occur between moonset and dawn, when the sky is at its darkest and the meteors' radiant point (the spot from which they seem to appear) is highest in the sky.
How can I see the Lyrid meteor shower?
The shooting stars will emanate from the area around the Lyra constellation, for which the Lyrids are named, but they can be seen all across the sky. This year, astronomers are expecting anywhere from 15 to 25 meteors per hour — and all you have to do is move away from bright lights, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and look up to spot them.
When is the next meteor shower?
Next on the calendar is the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in May, which will be more visible in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere. The next big show in the Northern Hemisphere won't be till the Perseid meteor shower in July and August.