Lyrid meteor shower peaks in night skies April 22-23

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Leonid meteor shower
Jordanians look at the desert sky during the Leonid meteor shower, near Amman, in the early hours of August 12, 2004. Meteors are the debris left in the wake of a passing comet infiltrating the Earth's atmosphere. Reuters/Ali jareji

April has been a time for celestial sightings. Early this month, Jupiter reached opposition, coming close to Earth and offering a spectacular view. The next astronomical event to look forward to is the Lyrid meteor shower that is slated to peak on April 22 and 23.

The Lyrid meteors may be streaking across the sky between April 16 and April 25, Space.com reported. People may cast their sights up to the sky because the Lyrids will be piercing the Summer Triangle in the early morning hours of April 22, NASA announced.  The major meteor shower begins close to the new moon so skygazers can expect excellent viewing conditions.

The best time to catch the Lyrid meteors is after midnight and just before dawn. People dwelling in the Northern Hemisphere (USA, Canada, Russia and all of the countries in Europe) have a vantage point or may best view the Lyrids.

Countries in the mid-Southern Hemisphere latitudes likewise can witness the shower between midnight and dawn. The Lyrid meteor got its name from the constellation Lyra. The point in the sky where the meteor looks to have emerged from is situated near the star Vega, one of the brightest stars this time of the year.

Lyrids hit the atmosphere at speeds of around 105,000 miles per hour and burn up around an altitude of 53 miles, meteor scientist Bill Cooke explained. In some instances, a bright Lyrid meteor can burn up 55 miles.

Lyrids are the oldest forms of recorded meteor showers caused by streams of meteoroids hitting the atmosphere. Meteor enthusiasts get to view a trickle (one or a couple) of shooting stars in a span of a few minutes of their scheduled appearance in the nighttime sky.

Some people have witnessed showers of shooting stars and fireballs over the years. Among those instances was in 1998, when a Leonid meteor shower occurred.

The Lyrid meteors are not always so meek. Not many people know that the Lyrids are produced by debris from comet Thatcher, and it takes about 415 years to orbit around the Sun.

In the past, there has been a lull in meteor activity as Earth passes through a part of its orbit that is free from major cometary debris streams. With minimal space dust in the area, there are simply lesser cosmic particles burning up in the atmosphere to create visible shooting stars. All major meteor streams that orbit the sun, some of which give rise to meteor showers on Earth, are now plotted by researchers.