Tonight – April 21, 2015 – look westward as darkness falls for the beautiful waxing crescent moon and bright planet Venus. They will dominate the western sky shortly after the sun goes down. As night passes, and Earth spins under the sky, the moon and Venus will soon follow the sun below the western horizon, leaving the sky dark for the 2015 Lyrid meteor shower. Follow the links below to learn more:
Earlier this month, Venus passed between two famous star clusters in the constellation Taurus the Bull – the tiny, dipper-shaped Pleiades and V-shaped Hyades – and still appears near the star Aldebaran, brightest star in Taurus, in our evening sky.
In the coming days, the moon will move on, waxing, growing larger in our sky, appearing more to the east each evening as it pursues its eastward orbit around Earth. The next full moon will come on the night of May 3-4, 2015.
Meanwhile, Venus will remain in the west after sunset through July. It will have an amazing conjunction with another bright planet in our sky, Jupiter, in June and July! Start watching Venus now (and note Jupiter’s location, to the east of Venus now on the sky’s dome, edging closer in the coming weeks and months). You’ll enjoy it!
Lyrid meteors on the mornings of April 22 and 23. The 2015 Lyrid meteor shower is expected to produce the most meteors in the wee hours after midnight and before dawn on Wednesday, April 22, or Thursday, April 23, with the nod going to the second date. Best yet, the waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, providing a dark sky for meteor watching. In a dark sky, you may see 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
No matter where you live worldwide, it’s likely the most Lyrid meteors will fly in the dark hour before dawn. That’s when the radiant point of the shower – in the constellation Lyra the Harp – will be highest in the sky. Find a place away from artificial lights and recline comfortably while looking in all parts of the sky.
The Lyrids are usually a modest shower, featuring 10 to 20 meteors per hour. Some of these swift Lyrid meteors have even been known to produce fireballs – exceptionally bright meteors. The Lyrids aren’t an altogether predictable shower, and in rare instances can bombard the sky with up to nearly 100 meteors per hour.
Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra, near the star Vega. But the meteors burn up in the atmosphere about 100 kilometers – or 60 miles – up. Vega lies trillions of times farther away at 25 light-years. But you don’t have identify the meteor shower radiant to enjoy the Lyrid meteors, which can fly in any part sof the night sky. If you trace the paths of the Lyrid meteors backward, however, they seems to radiate from this part of the starry sky.
Want more? Try these links:
Bottom line: The best time to watch 2015 Lyrid meteor shower is after midnight and before dawn. The best viewing for the Lyrid shower will be about 2 a.m. until dawn on Wednesday morning – April 22 – or Thursday morning – April 23. Go someplace where it’s really dark (no city lights). Just lie back comfortably and gaze in all parts of the sky.