From Pisgah Astronomical Research Insititute:
(March 25, 2014) – Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) remind the public of the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower in April.
Meteors result from particles of dust causing the atmosphere to glow as the particles enter the upper atmosphere of the Earth. The Lyrid Meteors, or “Lyrids,” are associated with Comet Thatcher first discovered in 1861. As this comet revolves around the Sun every 415 years, it gives off gases and dust particles due to the heat of the Sun. While the gases eventually are dispersed throughout space, the dust particles remain as a trail of debris in the path of the comet long after the comet has gone. Since the Earth encounters this trail of debris at the same point in space each time it makes its annual revolution around the Sun, we observe the Lyrids on the same date each year, around April 22. The first recorded observation of the Lyrids was in 687 B.C. In April 1803 there was a particularly dramatic appearance with a rate of about 700 meteors per hour. The Lyrids are a bit unpredictable as meteor showers go, some years being more vigorous than others.
In 2014 the Lyrids are predicted to reach a peak of about twenty meteors per hour around 1 p.m. EDT on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 22. While this is, of course, during daylight hours, the Lyrids appear for a day or so on either side of this date. So, Lyrids are likely to be spotted on the mornings of April 22 and 23. As with all meteor showers, the Lyrids are best observed between midnight and dawn from a clear, dark location with a good horizon. Look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Lyra the harp. Binoculars or telescopes are not needed to observe meteors. This year, unfortunately, we will have a last quarter moon on the morning of April 22. Therefore, the light of the moon will interfere with observations of these meteors.
PARI is a not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu. Follow PARI on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Astronomy_PARI. “Like” PARI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Pisgah.Astronomical.Research.Institute.