Lyrid meteor shower in 2024: How to see it despite the bright moon

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By aroundworld.news

As the weather warms up, the late April light show that is the Lyrid meteor shower is many people’s opportunity to dust off their stargazing blankets (not to mention their favorite hot beverage containers) and get back to looking up at the night sky in 2024. Renewed fascination in the heavenly spheres stimulated by the total solar eclipse earlier this month is probably also goosing interest in the Lyrids. 

But the almost full moon has other plans. Its brightness will be less than optimal. However, that doesn’t have to completely ruin this opportunity to look up. 

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When to watch the Lyrids in 2024

Either stay up super late the night of April 21, or wake up in the pre-dawn hours of April 22, because peak activity is expected at 5:23 a.m. ET. That moment of peak activity is really where you should direct your effort, because the Lyrids come fast and furious within a compressed time window — sometimes at a rate of 100 meteor sightings per hour. You won’t really get the flexibility you get with a longer show like the Perseids, which stick around for weeks. On the plus side, the focused intensity of the Lyrids can include fireballs, according to the American Meteor Society

How do I see the Lyrids when the moon is bright?

A bright waxing gibbous moon ahead of the full moon arriving on April 23 will undoubtedly add to your meteor-spotting difficulty level. That doesn’t mean it won’t be possible to see the shower, but it does mean extra effort will be rewarded. For instance, getting a nice view of any meteor shower usually requires you to minimize light pollution by putting about forty miles between yourself and the nearest city. That’s even truer in these lunar conditions.

So the moon will be a buzzkill, and it’s not always possible to take a drive out into nature, but think of it this way: when visibility is ideal, you can usually see four to eight meteors per hour even when there’s no meteor shower. That means during the Lyrids, even if you just watch the sky from suburbia for an hour and you glimpse ten meteors, you got a pretty good show on the whole.

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Oh, and your night vision will work better if you don’t acclimate your eyes to a glowing screen, so keep your phone in your pocket. 

What are the Lyrids anyway? 

Most meteor showers owe their existence to the debris left by passing comets orbiting our sun, and the Lyrids are no different. They’re a streak of dust left by Comet Thatcher, which last appeared in 1861 (and won’t be back until 2278). When our orbit carries us through the trail each year, the result is a show of pyrotechnics as the grain-of-rice-sized chunks burn up in our atmosphere. 

Meteors streak across the entire sky, but if you’re having trouble seeing the action, it can help a bit to look for the radiant point, the spot in the sky where the glowing meteors can be seen. We generally map radiant points with the stars or constellations they overlap, which can create the false impression that meteors originate from many light-years away, when they’re actually colliding with our planet. In North America, the radiant point of the Lyrids overlaps more or less with the star Vega in the constellation Lyra, which will rise just a little before midnight, and be at its highest just before dawn. 

So bring patience, hot drinks, and — if you’re feeling utterly lost — a stargazing app will direct your attention to the radiant point. But given the brightness of the moon, the problem might not be your sense of direction. This just might not be your year to see the Lyrids.

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