Lyrid meteor shower peak this week: When and where to see it in Arizona

It's been a few months since the last meteor shower (although we had a solar eclipse to be excited about). Now, skywatchers can rejoice as several celestial spectacles are on the horizon. Among them is the Lyrids meteor shower, an eagerly anticipated annual event.

The Lyrids are known for their association with Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher and their radiant point near the constellation Lyra.

For observers in Arizona, prime locations for catching this cosmic display include the vast expanse of Grand Canyon National Park, the dark-sky areas surrounding Flagstaff, the stunning landscapes of Saguaro National Park in Tucson and the serene beauty of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Here is everything you need to know about the Lyrids meteor shower in April 2024.

Fun fact: The Lyrids aren't the only meteor shower in April 2024. Skywatchers can also see the eta Aquariids meteor shower this month. Here's our 2024 astronomical calendar, a guide to every full moon, eclipse and meteor shower this year. And don't forget that the Devil Comet is coming in 2024.

What is the Lyrids meteor shower?

The Lyrids meteor shower is an annual meteor shower that occurs in April.

We talked to Theodore Kareta, a postdoctoral researcher at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, who said, “They are named for the constellation Lyra, as they radiate away from a point in that constellation right next to the bright star Vega.

"In other words, if you see a Lyrid and you try to trace back to where it came from on the sky, you’ll get to Lyra.”

The Lyrids meteor shower is known for producing bright, fast-moving meteors and occasional fireballs. The Lyrids are associated with the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which orbits the sun once every 415 years. When the Earth passes through the debris left behind by this comet, the particles burn up in our atmosphere, creating the meteor shower.

What day will the Lyrid meteor shower peak in activity?

According to the American Meteor Society, the Lyrids meteor shower will be visible April 15-29, 2024, peaking April 21-22.

What is the best time of night to see the Lyrid meteor shower?

The best time of night to see the 2024 Lyrid meteor shower peak will be the late evening of April 21 through dawn on April 22, according to EarthSky.org.

Where will the Lyrid meter shower be visible?

To watch the Lyrids meteor shower in Arizona, find a dark spot away from city lights where you can safely and comfortably observe the sky for a few hours. The Lyrids typically produce around 10 to 20 meteors per hour under optimal conditions.

“I’d encourage you to go look northeast right after sunset and let your eyes adjust. It can take up to twenty to thirty minutes to let your eyes adjust fully. The better adjusted you are to low light, the more meteors you see,” said Kareta.

What direction are the Lyrids?

For the Lyrids meteor shower, as with most meteor showers, you should generally look toward the northeastern sky.

The radiant point, the apparent origin of the meteors, is near the constellation Lyra, which rises in the northeastern part of the sky during the peak hours of the shower. However, you don't need to focus solely on this direction; meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.

How long does the Lyrids meteor shower last?

The Lyrids meteor shower typically lasts for several days. They should be visible for about a week or so. The best time to observe them is usually on the peak night when the highest number of meteors is expected. After the peak, the meteor activity gradually diminishes until it fades away.

What makes Lyrids different from other showers?

Known for producing bright, fast-moving meteors, the Lyrids occasionally offer the spectacular sight of fireballs streaking across the sky.

Unlike some meteor showers with more predictable peaks, the intensity of the Lyrids can vary from year to year. With their distinctive source comet, radiant point and meteor characteristics the Lyrids offer a fascinating celestial display.

“The Lyrids are the meteor shower for which we have the oldest historical record. Humans have been watching them and writing it down for at least 2,600 years,” said Kareta.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: When is the Lyrid meteor shower 2024? Here's where to look