The Lyrids are particles shed from comet 1861 G1 Thatcher, which last passed through the inner solar system in 1861. Don’t expect this comet to return anytime soon as its orbit has been calculated to be near 415 years!
Two years after the last passage of the comet through the inner solar system, an impressive display of Lyrid meteors was observed. This helped link the relationship between this comet and the Lyrids. It was also noted that another impressive display of the Lyrids had occurred in 1803, 60 years prior. Despite these facts, no one was looking for enhanced rates from the Lyrids in the early 1920’s. Yet in 1922, another strong Lyrid display occurred. You would have thought by now that astronomers would be eagerly anticipating the early 1980’s for more enhanced Lyrid activity. But unfortunately, meteor studies tend to fall off the grid, even with the tremendous Leonid display of 1966. So again in 1982, meteor watchers were caught off guard when another Lyrid outburst occurred. I can only hope that during the early 2040’s that we will be on guard for another grand meteor display from the Lyrids!
So, what is one to expect from Lyrid displays between these outbursts? Probably not much. There have been unverified reports of lesser outbursts which have led us to think that there may be debris from this comet trapped in shorter orbits with a 12- or 20-year return period. Therefore, we suggest that potential observers observe the Lyrids at every opportunity just in case something unusual occurs.
The normal Lyrid display, seen under moonless conditions, usually offers a peak of around 10 meteors per hour in addition to the normal random meteor rate of about 5 per hour. In 2023, the peak is predicted to occur near 01:00 Universal Time on April 23rd.* This corresponds to 9pm EDT and 6pm PDT on the evening of April 22nd. The peak is sharp, only a few hours long, so don’t be surprised if you see far less than 10 Lyrids per hour. Yet when compared to the normal low activity seen during the late winter and early spring nights, the nights around April 23rd offer a nice bit of entertainment to help one stay awake. On April 23rd, the Lyrid radiant actually lies among the stars of eastern Hercules. There are no bright stars to pinpoint the radiant, yet the brilliant zero magnitude star known as Vega only lies 8 degrees to the northeast. The best strategy to see these meteors is to view from the darkest site possible. The more stars you see, the more meteors will be visible. View as late as possible (4-5am local daylight time is best) when the radiant is located highest in the sky. If you are limited to more civilized hours, then start around 10pm. At that time the radiant lies low in the northeastern sky and a majority of the activity will be blocked by the horizon. If you are lucky, you may still see a couple of these meteors shoot upward from the radiant.
*Rendtel, Jürgen, IMO 2023 Meteor Shower Calendar, Page 7 https://www.imo.net/files/meteor-shower/cal2023.pdf
Between midnight and dawn, Lyrid meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky. If you face away from the radiant it is difficult to tell if the meteors you see belong to the Lyrid shower. Therefore, it is suggested that you face in the general direction of the Lyrid radiant, which will lie high in the northeastern sky as seen from mid-northern latitudes. That way you can easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant to see if it was a Lyrid or not. You don’t need to stare directly at the radiant as Lyrid meteors seen there will be short and often missed. Meteors seen further from their radiant are longer and easier to see.
Compared to other meteor showers, the Lyrids tend to produce bright meteors and an occasional fireball. This makes them easier to see and photograph. While the average Lyrid is fairly bright, this shower is not photogenic unless you take time exposures during maximum activity. The brightest meteors will show up well in prints but most of the captured meteors will only appear as faint streaks. Attaching your camera to a driven mount is highly recommended as this will keep the stars as pinpoints and the meteors as streaks.
The moon often interferes with viewing meteor showers as bright moonlight can obscure all but the brighter meteors. Such was the case in 2021 and 2022 with the Lyrids. This year however, on April 23rd, the moon is a waxing crescent phase and will set during the late evening hours. This is long before the Lyrid radiant rises high into the sky.
Should the morning of maximum activity be cloudy, the next night will usually see a falloff of approximately 50 percent. This is also true for the Lyrids with maximum hourly rates of only 2-3 on the morning of the 24th. Rates fall with each successive night until activity gradually disappears by the end of the month.
To provide a scientific useful observing session one needs to carefully note the starting and ending time of your session and the time each meteor appears. The type of meteor needs to be recorded as well as its magnitude. Other parameters that can be recorded are colors, velocity (degrees per second or verbal description) and whether the meteor left a persistent train. Fireballs should be noted, and a separate online form filled out after the session here.
Serious observers should watch for at least an hour as numerous peaks and valleys of activity will occur. If you only view for a short time it may coincide with a lull of activity. Watching for at least an hour guarantees you will get to see the best this display has to offer. The serious observer is also encouraged to fill out a visual observing form on the website of the International Meteor Organization. You must register to use the form, but this is free. The registration site is located here: Good luck with your observing attempts!
I seen a meteor in the sky this morning in Northwest Ohio at approximately 5:25 am I was on my way to work. A co-worker also mentioned seeing it as well. It was moving fast and appeared to have a green tint and resembled a tadpole in shape but upon descent it’s color disappeared.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pennsylvania. 5:01am.
This was amazing I’ve seen a fireball but, this I’ve never seen the likes of which before and probably never will again.
This is going to be hard to explain. I wasn’t far from an urban setting so I can’t gauge actual brightness. Medium brightness traveling roughly northeast. Looked like a trail of dots playing follow the leader or like rock skipping. Once we noticed this it went at least 3/4 of the sky before disappearing behind the tree line and we couldn’t see it anymore. I wish I have captured it but sadly I was just viewing. Cell phone cameras suck. I tried to register on the above (Here) mentioned site but I kept getting an error message and quit after several attempts. I wish I could get an explanation if at all possible. No troll’s!
It was the Elon musk satellite train lol