The annual shower of "fast and bright meteors" picked up steam on Monday and is expected to reach its peak on Thursday

By Joelle Goldstein
April 20, 2021 03:40 PM
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Lyrid meteor shower
A Lyrid meteor shower
| Credit: Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance via Getty

Earth Day is approaching — and what better way to celebrate than with a meteor shower lighting up the sky?

The 2021 Lyrid Meteor Shower, which started picking up steam on Monday, is expected to streak across the sky this week, according to EarthSky.org.

Experts predict that the annual event — which occurs each year after a meteor drought from January to mid-April — will reach its peak during the predawn hours on Thursday, the outlet reported.

"By April, after the months of meteor drought, many meteor-watchers are itching to get going!" the site reads. "So – though they produce only 10 to 15 meteors per hour at their peak – the Lyrids are always welcome."

According to NASA, Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers, with the first reported sighting dating back to 687 BC.

They are known for their "fast and bright meteors" and "frequently leave glowing dust trains behind them as they streak through the Earth's atmosphere," which can be observed for several seconds afterward, NASA reported.

Composite image of Lyrid and non-Lyrid meteors
Composite image of Lyrid and non-Lyrid meteors
| Credit: Danielle Moser/MSFC/NASA

Each year, from about April 16 to 25, the Lyrids start to become active and light up the sky, according to EarthSky.org.

With this year's event, experts believe the best view of the Lyrids will be seen between moonset and dawn, regardless of your location on Earth, the outlet reported.

However, the American Meteor Society noted that meteors are "best seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant is high in the sky at dawn," and that although activity can be seen from the southern hemisphere, it will be "at a lower rate."

On Thursday, during its expected peak, the shower is expected to produce about 15 to 20 meteors per hour, according to EarthSky.org.

AccuWeather.com also reported that while "a few shooting stars may be seen streaking across the sky early in the night... the best time to watch the event will be during the second half of the night as the frequency of meteors slowly increases."

"Additionally, the moon will be emitting bothersome light pollution until after it sets around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. local time, after which the darker sky will make it easier to see the dimmer meteors," the site stated. "A few lucky onlookers may even spot incredibly bright meteors known as fireballs, which are periodically seen around the time that the Lyrids peak."

Luckily, the weather will be clear for those interested in catching some celestial action, with AccuWeather reporting that the weather will be favorable across North America.

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Most of the southern, western and north-central parts of the U.S. will experience clear to partly cloudy conditions, but the outlet noted that clouds may cause issues for some areas of Florida, and near Colorado and Kansas.

For the best viewing experience, experts recommend traveling to more rural areas that won't be disrupted by light pollution, often found in or near cities, according to EarthSky.org.

And for those who have to miss the event, have no fear: it won't be long until the next meteor shower strikes. Following the Lyrid Meteor Shower, the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower is expected to occur between April 19 to May 28, with a peak expected for May 4-5, according to the American Meteor Society.