One of the oldest meteor showers on Earth peaks this weekend


"In the early morning sky, a patient observer will see up to more than a dozen meteors per hour in this medium-strength shower, with 18 meteors per hour calculated for the peak", wrote Jane Houston Jones of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. "U.S. observers should see good rates on the nights before and after this peak".

The meteor shower will originate from east-northeast near the Lyra constellation, which is how the shower earned its name.

However, it helps to know what time the constellation is at the highest point in the sky, because that's when you are likely to see the most meteors.

The best viewing conditions on Saturday night are expected across much of the northeastern and southwestern United States where the sky will primarily be clear. On the night of Sunday, April 22nd, to Monday, April 23rd, early risers (or the night owls) will be able to observe up to 20 meteors per hour.

Each April, Earth moves through a debris field from Comet Thatcher.

If the Lyrids last traditionally from April 16th to 26th, it is this weekend that the spectacle they make will be the most visible, this date corresponding to the peak in the intensity of the meteor swarm.

Some meteors leave brilliant trails behind them in the form of ionized gas.

More news: 'Fearless Girl' Statue Moving to NY Stock Exchange
More news: Khloe Kardashian shares emotional statement after Tristan Thompson 'cheat' allegations
More news: Alexa Skill Blueprints - Create your own Family Trivia Game

"Some comets are no longer active and are now called asteroids". The Lyrids will "radiate" through the Summer Triangle, which is made up of three bright stars in the eastern sky.

The sounds, they explain, must be the result of electromagnetic energy from the meteor that has travelled to the viewer miles away, and been converted to acoustic waves.

Bright pulses of light from the meteor heat these materials, which subsequently conduct heat into the air around.

Chinese records suggest humans have been watching the Lyrids for at least 2,600 years. Though not as impressive as the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December (with up to 100 meteors per hour), the Lyrids are still a sight worth seeing.

Their orbit follows that of Comet Thatcher, which appeared in 1861 and has an orbital period of about 400 years.

The comet, which takes 415 years to orbit the sun, isn't expected back until 2276, according to EarthSky.