Lyrid Meteor Shower 2018: When To Watch In WisconsinApril 18, 2018
WISCONSIN — The spring and summer meteor shower season starts this month with the Lyrid meteor shower, which runs April 16-25, but peaks Sunday, April 22, but skywatchers may also see them on the days before and after the peak.
Despite round after round of early-spring snow, the long-range weather forecast in Wisconsin suggests viewing conditions will eventually become more favorable (how can they not?).
At its peak, the Lyrids will produce between 15 and 20 meteors an hour, and the best time to see the show is early in the morning before dawn on April 22. The moon will be out of the way and will have set before the Lyrids kick up, so, depending on weather conditions in your part of Wisconsin, this show should be a winner.
4-Day Weather Forecast:
Thursday April 19
Breezy in the morning and partly cloudy starting in the evening. High 45, low 31.
Chance of precipitation: 33%. Wind 12 mph from the NNW
Friday April 20
Partly cloudy throughout the day. High 49, low 28.
Chance of precipitation: 15%. Wind 2 mph from the W
Saturday April 21
Foggy in the morning. High 48, low 33.
Chance of precipitation: 16%. Wind 2 mph from the SE
Sunday April 22
Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High 55, low 36.
Chance of precipitation: 1%. Wind 5 mph from the ESE
What You’ll See
The Lyrids are known to be fickle and unpredictable, but typically produce about 15 and 20 meteors an hour, many with trails that last a few seconds and, occasionally, a few fireballs. In some years, the shower intensifies in what’s called an “outburst” and produce up to 100 shooting stars.
The last Lyrid outburst was in 1982, according to Earthsky.org, which said U.S. skywatchers were treated to a spectacular show that year.
And though the calendar might suggest we’re due for another one — Lyrid outbursts might occur generally occur in 30-year intervals — NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke predicts an average show this year.
“People say there is some periodicity there,” Cooke told Space.com, “but the data doesn’t support that.”
One of the oldest showers on record, the Lyrids were detected in China around 687 BC, but its source, the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, wasn’t discovered until 1861. The meteor shower originates from the constellation Lyra to the northeast of Vega, one of the brightest stars visible in the night sky this time of year, but meteors will be visible from anywhere in the sky.
All meteor showers occur when the Earth crosses the path of a comet and collide with the trail of comet debris, making their occurrence predictable. They leave bright streaks — called shooting stars.
Lyrid meteors are fast, but not as fast as the Leonids, which come in November, Cooke told Space.com.
“The Leonids hit us head on,” he said, while the “Lyrids are more like hitting the left front of the fender.”
Here’s what’s ahead through spring and summer:
May 6-7: The Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which runs from April 19-May 28, is an above average shower that can produce as many as 60 meteors an hour at its peak. It favors the Southern Hemisphere, but should still be a good show in the Northern Hemisphere with about 30 meteors an hour. A waning gibbous moon will be problematic, blocking out the faintest of the meteors. They radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but are visible from anywhere in the sky.
July 28-29: The Delta Aquarids meteor shower, produced by debris left behind by the comets Marsden and Kracht, runs from July 12-Aug. 23. It’s an average show, producing about 20 meteors an hour at its peak, but a nearly full moon will be problematic. The meteors radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can be seen from any location in the sky. The best viewing times are after midnight.
Aug. 12-13: The annual Perseids meteor shower, which runs July 17-Aug. 24, is typically one of the best of the year, producing from 60 to 100 meteors an hour at its peak. The meteors are historically bright, and this should be a great year for skywatchers because a thin crescent moon should make for dark skies. The Perseids are produced by the comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862. The meteors fall between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, but just look up and you should be able to see them from anywhere in the sky.
Beth Dalbey of Patch’s national staff contributed to this report.
Photo by lovemushroom via Shutterstock