The Lyrid meteor shower is on its way to your local backyard. These fast-moving meteors travel at about 30 miles per second and often produce bright streaks of dust that you can see for many seconds. See them in the middle of April 2011.
The Lyrid meteor shower for 2011 is set to occur at its peak on April 21 and 22, although you should be able to see them from April 16 to April 25 -- just not as many of them each hour.

The Lyrids originate from the long-period Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), which was discovered by astronomer A.E. Thatcher on April 4, 1861. See The New York Times article "The Discovery of the Thatcher Comet--Letter from Sir John Herschel" ("Herschel" misspelled in title -- open up the pdf file at the bottom of the article to see the original letter from Sir John).

Astronomers are predicting that at its peak hours (on the 22nd, in the United States), the Lyrids should produce about 15 meteors per hour. On the 21st and 23rd, the Lyrids should produce about 5 per hour. These dates may be a day off depending on where in the world you are located.

Further out in dates (in both directions), they should produce only 1 to 2 meteors each hour.

Although only predicted to be a modest sized meteor shower, any meteor shower can have bursts of extra meteors from time to time. This one could produce 60 in an hour, but you never know when that might occur.


In 1982, for instance, amateur astronomers saw 90 meteors in an hour, during an exceptionally high period of activity of the Lyrids. This large number occurs when the Earth passes through an extra thick part of the dust tail.

To locate the approximate area of the night sky to look for the Lyrids, its radiant is found in the eastern part of the constellation Hercules, just southwest of the bright star Vega (Alpha Lyrae).

Page two continues with more specifics on where to look in the night sky to see the meteors of the Lyrids.

Look in the direction of the northeastern portion of the night sky. Vega is the fifth brightest star in the night sky.

The radiant point for the Lyrids is just to the right of Vega, which is part of the constellation Lyra. Next door to Lyra is the constellation Hercules.

You will only be able to see the meteors during the late evening hours, after midnight and before dawn local time.

This is so because the radiant (the point from which the meteors seem to originate) will be below the horizon during the early hours of the evening.

The star Vega will rise in the northeastern portion of the night sky around 9 or 10 p.m. local time, and then will proceed to climb higher in the sky.

As it climbs higher the better chance you’ll get to see the meteors of the Lyrids. Just before dawn, Vega will be overhead, making for the best time to observe them.

Astronomers predict that the hour before dawn could be your best viewing times for the Lyrids in 2011.

The people in the Northern Hemisphere have a bit of an advantage for seeing the Lyrids than their counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere.

However, the waning gibbous Moon will also be shining brightly (about 75% of it), so only the brightest of the Lyrid meteors will be visible.

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