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Your guide to the Lyrid meteor shower April 21, 2012

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, meteor.
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Tonight and tomorrow night, look up at the sky for a spectacular light show.

The Lyrid Meteor Showers happen annually, but this year’s “moonless” night and lack of cloud cover for the western two-thirds of the United States will make for better views.

The moon is in its new phase – meaning the side facing Earth isn’t lit up by the sun, NASA’s meteor shower expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. Last year, the moonlight made it harder to see the Lyrid show.

“The Lyrids are really unpredictable,” Cooke told Space.com. “I’m expecting 15 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour. Back in 1982, they outburst to nearly 100 per hour. You really can’t predict with this.”

Space.com reports that the Lyrid shower – which takes place as the Earth passes through dust from comet Thatcher – has been watched by humans for more than 2,600 years.

The meteor shower’s name comes from the constellation Lyra.

The best times to watch are after midnight and just before dawn. Look to the northeast and pick a viewpoint well away from city lights. The darker the sky, the brighter the meteors will appear.

NASA recommends watching with the naked eye instead of through a telescope or binoculars.

(Credit: CNN)

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