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Full moon wipes out Lyrid meteor shower

2016-april-21-moon-spica

Tonight for April 21, 2016

Look westward at darkness gives way to nightfall for the planet Mercury.

Look westward at darkness gives way to nightfall for the planet Mercury.

This evening – April 21, 2016 – look eastward to see the full moon near Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. The bright moon (and Spica) will be out all night long, to subdue the Lyrid meteors on their expected peak night. The most Lyrid meteors are expected to fly in the few hours before dawn April 22, but the light of the full moon is sure to wash out all but the very brightest Lyrid meteors.

Smallest full moon of 2016 on April 22

Lyrid meteors on the mornings of April 22 and 23. The 2016 Lyrid meteor shower is expected to produce the most meteors in the wee hours after midnight and before dawn on Friday, April 22. In a dark sky, you may see 10 to 20 meteors per hour, but the full moon is sure to lessen the number this year.

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 radiant point of the Lyrid meteor shower is near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp.

The radiant point of the Lyrid meteor shower is near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp. Read more.

Sun’s rising time in your sky

The Lyrids are usually a modest shower, featuring 10 to 20 meteors per hour on a moonless night. Some of these swift Lyrid meteors have even been known to produce fireballs – exceptionally bright meteors – and might be able to overcome the moonlit glare. 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:

Everything you need to know: Lyrid meteor shower

Top ten tips for meteor watchers

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2016

EarthSky astronomy kits are perfect for beginners. Order today from the EarthSky store

Bottom line: The best time to watch Lyrid meteor shower is during the dark hours before dawn – though, in 2016, the full moon is sure to subdue the number of visible meteors.