The first meteor shower since January will be visible for much of the nation on Friday night as the Lyrid meteor shower reaches its peak.
This will be an excellent year for viewing the Lyrids as the peak falls just a few days after the new moon, thus light from the moon will not interfere with viewing conditions.
Up to 20 meteors an hour may be seen on the night of April 21 into the morning of April 22 in areas with a clear sky and low light pollution.
The Lyrids can occasionally producing as many as 100 meteors an hour, but an outburst like this is not expected this year.
“These meteors usually lack persistent trains but can produce fireballs,“ the American Meteor Society said.
Fireballs are meteors that become extremely bright as they burn up entering the Earth’s atmosphere and can light up the entire sky for a few brief seconds.
The best time to view the Lyrids will be after midnight as the radiant point, or the point where the meteors originate, begins to climb high in the sky.
Despite the meteors originating from the same point, they will appear in all areas of the sky as they streak away from the point in all directions.
Because of this, onlookers just need to simply look up at the open sky and wait for a meteor to appear without having to focus on a single point.
The best viewing conditions on Friday night will be across the western United States and around the Great Lakes where clear skies will lead to uninterrupted viewing conditions.
Meanwhile, clouds will lead to poor viewing conditions for much of the East Coast, central Plains and Rocky Mountains.
Friday night’s Lyrid meteor shower may be the best meteor shower for the Northern Hemisphere until the peak of the Orionid meteor shower in late October.
While there are several meteor showers between April and October, the peaks of the showers that fall in this time all occur within a few days of the full moon.
The light from the nearly full moon makes it difficult to spot many of the dimmer meteors, reducing the number of meteors that onlookers can spot.