The Lyrid meteor shower is set to make its annual comeback this year. However, the shower might be outshined by a waning gibbous moon.
According to scientists, the Lyrid meteor shower
occurs every April.
Waning Gibbous Moon
The Lyrids are set to appear in the night sky
beginning April 16 until April 28. According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the peak of the shower is scheduled to fall before the dawn of Tuesday, April 23.
He also warns shower watchers that a bright, waning gibbous moon might outshine most meteors this year. "The light from the full moon is pretty much going to completely wash out the Lyrids this year," he said
Usually, the Lyrid shower is most visible during a moonless sky
, with viewers normally seeing up to 20 meteors per hour. This year, the meteor shower could be about 20 per hour.
Even though the moon might dampen the shower, a meteor outburst, where over 100 meteors can be seen, is possible in some years.
Comet Particles And Broken Asteroids
When the Earth travels around the sun every year, the planet coincides with the debris left by comet particles and broken asteroids.
"I kind of like thinking about the fact that the particles burning up in our atmosphere during a shower have been orbiting the sun for centuries, finally hitting the top of our atmosphere and going out in a streak of light," said Cooke.
Lyrid showers particularly are caused by Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). The Earth crosses
the orbital path of this comet during the month of April every year, hence the meteor shower.
The pieces shed by the comet litter its orbital path and pound the Earth's atmosphere at 110,000 miles per hour. Its vaporizing debris is what people see in the sky.
According to scientists, the best way to observe the Lyrid shower this month is to go to a place with no light pollution, like the countryside. Before viewing, skywatchers have to make sure to pick a good spot and let the eyes adapt to the dark.