Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks April 22 and 23

Summary: The 2017 Lyrid Meteor Shower, known popularly as April Lyrids or, simply, Lyrids, peaks Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23.

Lyrid Meteor Shower radiant: NASA Science, Public Domain, via Bard Anton Zajac @ Flickr

The 2017 Lyrid Meteor Shower, which is also known popularly as Lyrids or April Lyrids, peaks Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower takes place annually from around April 16 to April 26. Peak rates usually are centered on April 22.
The 2017 Lyrid Meteor Shower’s peak rates begin to occur beginning around 10:30 to 11 p.m. local time, Saturday, April 22. Best viewing happens early Sunday, April 23, after midnight and before dawn.
Time and Date website ( identifies Northern Hemisphere viewers as favorably located for viewing the April Lyrids. The Lyrids are also viewable by observers in mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower derives its name from Lyra the Harp constellation. The meteor shower’s radiant, or apparent point of origin, lies near Lyra’s eastern border with constellation of Hercules the Hero. Meteors are visible anywhere in the sky, but tracing shooting stars back to their apparent point of origin is helpful in differentiating between annual and sporadic activity. The radiant is not, however, the actual point of origin.
Amateur astronomer Gary W. Kronk orients observers in the Northern Hemisphere to face east-northeast to locate the meteor shower’s radiant east of Lyra the Harp’s brightest star, Vega. Lyra is high above the horizon at midnight local time in mid-northern latitudes worldwide.
Southern Hemisphere observers face north-northeast to locate the Lyrids’ apparent radiant. At about 3 a.m. local time in mid-southern latitudes worldwide, Lyra is above the horizon, though not as high as in the Northern Hemisphere.
Lyra’s brightest star, Vega, shines with unmistakable brightness as the night sky’s fifth brightest star. In the Northern Hemisphere, Altair, brightest star in Aquila the Eagle constellation and the night sky’s twelfth brightest star, appears below the Lyrids’ radiant, diagonally southeast of Vega. In the Southern Hemisphere, Altair resides above the Lyrids’ radiant, diagonally northeast of Vega.
The April 2017 moon cooperates with the Lyrid Meteor Shower’s peak and ending dates via non-competitive phases. The waning crescent, which succeeds Wednesday, April 19’s last quarter phase, segues from Saturday’s 21 percent visibility to Sunday’s 13 percent and reaches new moon blackout by Wednesday, April 26.
    The April Lyrids’ shoot across the sky at a medium rate of speed. The American Meteor Society (AMS) times the velocity of the Lyrids’ shooting stars at about 30 miles per second (48.4 kilometers per second).
    The Lyrid Meteor Shower displays a usual peak rate of 10 to 20 meteors per hour. Extreme outbursts in the shower’s zenital hourly rate (ZHR) for unknown reasons, at undetermined intervals, have been recorded. Kronk cites maximum hourly rates of 96 on April 21, 1922, in Greece; 112 on April 22, 1945, in Japan; and 90 to 100 on April 22, 1982, in Colorado and Florida.
    The Lyrid Meteor Shower of April 20, 1803, illuminated the United States’ east coast with a meteor storm, with an hourly rate of 670 or more, lasting for several hours. A letter from an observer in Richmond, Virginia, published Saturday, April 23, 1803, in the Virginia Gazette, described the outburst as:
    “From one until three, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets.”
    Universe Today contributor David Dickinson notes the prime meteor shower viewing conditions that prevailed in 1803. On April 20, the moon was one day away from the darkness of its new moon phase.
    April 2017’s waning crescent lunar phase favors easy viewing of the Lyrid Meteor Shower’s peak date.
    Meteor showers mostly originate as debris and dust cast off by comets. The Lyrid Meteor Shower claims Comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) as its parent comet. The long period comet roughly takes about 415 years to complete its orbit around the sun.
    Gary W. Kronk notes that in 1867 German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle (June 9, 1812-July 10, 1910) mathematically confirmed Comet Thatcher’s parentage of the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower. Galle also included the April Lyrids’ history, tracing the shower back to March 16, 687 BCE.
    The takeaway for the 2017 Lyrid Meteor Shower peak date Saturday evening, April 22, to before dawn, Sunday, April 23, is the favorable shooting star viewing conditions afforded by the moon’s waning crescent phase, only three days away from a new moon blackout.

    meteor speeds, with April Lyrids at 110,000 miles per hour, according to NASA Marshall Space Flight Center's Meteoroid Environment Office: NASA/MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center)/Danielle Moeser, Public Domain, via NASA Blogs

    My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.

    Image credits:
    Lyrid Meteor Shower radiant: NASA Science, Public Domain, via Bard Anton Zajac/Flickr @
    meteor speeds: NASA/MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center)/Danielle Moeser, Public Domain, via NASA Blogs @

    For further information:
    “2017 Lyrids.” Society for Popular Astronomy > Meteor Showers > Activity.
    Available @
    Cooke, William B. (wcooke). “Live Chat and Ustream! 2014 Perseid Meteor Shower.” NASA Blogs > Watch the Skies. Aug. 12, 2014.
    Available @
    Dickinson, David. “The Curious History of the Lyrid Meteor Shower.” Universe Today. Dec. 23, 2015.
    Available @
    Fisher, Willard J. “Records of the Lyrid Meteor Shower of 1803: A Search by the Bond Astronomical Club, With Notes on the Leonids of 1799.” Popular Astronomy, vol. 39 (1931): 256-263.
    Available via Harvard ADSABS (NASA Astrophysics Data System Abstracts) @
    Harbaugh, Jennifer. “Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow, April 22.” NASA > Press Release > Meteor & Meteorites. April 21, 2015. Last updated July 30, 2015.
    Available @
    Kronk, Gary W. “Observing the Lyrids.” Meteor Showers Online.
    Available @
    Lindblad, Bertil A.; V. Porubcan. “Activity of the Lyrid Meteor Stream.” In Lunar and Planetary Institute,  Asteroids, Comets, Meteors 1991. Pages 367-370. December 1992.
    Available via Harvard ADSABS (NASA Astrophysics Data System Abstracts) @
    “Lyrid Meteor Shower in 2017.” Time And Date > Sun & Moon > Meteor Showers.
    Available @
    “Lyrids.” American Meteor Society > Meteor Showers > Meteor Shower Calendar.
    Available @
    Marriner, Derdriu. “Lyrid Meteor Shower: April’s Annual Shooting Stars From Comet Thatcher.” Earth and Space News. Friday, April 24, 2015.
    Available @
    “Meteors & Meteorites: Lyrids.” NASA Solar System Exploration > Planets > Meteors.
    Available @!
    Phillips, Tony. “Look, Listen, Lyrids!” NASA Science > Science News > Science at NASA > 2001. April 18, 2001.
    Available @

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