Look for this meteor shower just before midnight on these two nights. There is a good chance of seeing a hundred or more meteors per hour! The radiant (the apparent point of origin) is in the constellation Gemini, which will be high overhead as midnight approaches. Be sure to get some observing in before the Moon rises at about 11pm and midnight on these two nights.
Look for this meteor shower at around midnight on these two nights. The radiant (the apparent point of origin) is in the constellation Leo, which will be high overhead at midnight. Interestingly, at any given time of the year, the Earth is moving toward whatever stars happen to be directly overhead at midnight, and it “smashes” into the debris field that crosses the Earth’s orbit and creates the shower.
The Leonid shower of 2002 was the best meteor shower that I have ever witnessed. I went out at around midnight near the peak, and the origin was nearly directly overhead. I could see about six to eight meteors per minute that seemed to fly out of the origin in all directions. While lying on my back and looking straight up at the origin the visual effect was very much like the old Windows screen saver that gave the appearance of flying through a star field.
This normally showy meteor shower will be somewhat diminished by the nearly full Moon. It is best observed between midnight and dawn, and the meteors will seem to radiate from a point located in the constellation Perseus. This shower is still worth watching as many bright meteors are expected to be seen.
Named meteor showers occur at roughly the same time each year. Astronomers estimate that the this year’s shower will be somewhat subdued because the Moon brightens the sky, which prevents the dimmer meteors from being seen. All of the meteors associated with the Lyrids shower will appear to come from inside the constellation Lyra. Even though the visible meteor trails are likely to begin outside of Lyra, and the end of the trails will be even farther away from Lyra in every direction, all of visible meteor trails associated with this shower can be traced backward to a common point within Lyra. The shower begins around April 16th and occurs every night through about April 25th. The shower will peak (highest number of meteors per hour) on April 22nd and 23rd. Lyra will rise in the east at about 11:30pm during this period, and can be found by locating its bright star Vega using a planisphere or smartphone app. To observe, be sure to dress warmly and sit in something comfortable, like a reclining lawn chair.
Events come and go, but are interesting to observe. Event durations can vary from an instant to seconds, minutes or days, or even longer. Examples include eclipses, certain planetary arrangements and alignments, meteor showers, and transits of the Sun. One must know when, where, and how to observe an event in the night sky. Most events covered in Jim Johnson’s Astronomy provide insight into how the Solar System actually works.