BREAKING NEWS: Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight on April 22


Lyrid meteror shower. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user PsamatheM under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

BY DANIEL WINNER | AC JosepH Media Correspondent

This month has seen a wild array of both terrestrial and celestial phenomena, from the earthquake that rattled the tri-state area on April 5, to the Total Solar Eclipse that swept through the nation three days later. Once again, South Jersey has a chance to look up at the heavens and see a dazzling display of “astronomical” proportions.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower is among the first springtime meteor showers to light up the night sky, typically lasting April 15 to April 29. The spectacle usually peaks around either April 22 or 23, and this year the 22nd is the date to mark down in your calendar. Monday night will offer the most visibility for prospective viewers, until the early-morning hours on Tuesday. 

Kicking off the 2024 meteor shower season, the Lyrid meteor shower will be the second to grace the skies — after the Quadrantids on Jan. 4 — followed by the Eta Aquariids on May 5-6, the Delta Aquariids from July 25 to Aug. 5, and the Perseids on Aug. 12.

The Lyrid meteor shower is the result of dust particles shed by the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, a long-period comet with a 422-year orbit that will not return to Earth until around the year 2283. 

The Lyrids are also the oldest meteor shower on historical record, having been observed as early as March 16, 687 BC, when Chinese court astronomers reported that “in the middle of the night, stars fell like rain.”

A week before the anticipated meteor shower, residents of NJ, PA, and NY witnessed what appeared to be a bright green fireball fly across the sky. Reports of the mysterious object even came from South Jersey cities such as Atlantic City, Barnegat Township, Beach Haven. The event was caught on camera at several NJ households, and can be seen on the Weather Channel’s YouTube channel.

Front Runner New Jersey consulted NASA to find out the best way to view tonight’s meteor shower.

“The Lyrids are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere during the dark hours (after moonset and before dawn),” says NASA on their website. “Find an area well away from city lights or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”

Lyrid meteors are known for being particularly bright and speedy. While skywatchers are expected to see around 10-20 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak, amateur astronomers in the US counted 90 per hour back in 1982. In 1803, a journalist in Richmond, Virginia saw as many as 700 per hour. Meteors will be visible around the constellations Hercules and Lyra and near Vega, the brightest star in Lyra.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Winner has a double major in Religious Studies and Japanese from Penn State University and has traveled internationally to the Far East on several occasions. His insights on Buddhism and Asian culture give a unique view of historical and modern trends. He will be serving as a contributor for Front Runner New Jersey.

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