This weekend is when the Lyrid meteor shower peaks, however seeing it may be difficult.

Jason Weingart captures meteors of the Perseid Meteor Shower as they dart across the night sky, on August 14, 2016 in Terlingua, Texas. JASON WEINGART / BARCROFT MEDIA VIA GETTY IMAGES

,-  The Lyrid meteor shower is currently visible in the night sky, although a nearly full moon may be a problem for skywatchers. All the same, this yearly event in mid-to-late April promises a show of cosmic wonder.
Usually visible for ten to twenty meteors per hour, the Lyrids are predicted to be at their busiest on Sunday and Monday. Enthusiasts need not worry, though, as there will be plenty of opportunity to see nature's pyrotechnics until April 29.

Exactly what then is a meteor shower? Fundamentally, the Earth's passage through comet debris is what causes these brilliant displays. This fascinating phenomena is caused in the case of the Lyrids by the comet Thatcher.

The air friction when these rocky leftovers from space crash into Earth's atmosphere heats them up dramatically. We call this brief trail of light that is produced by this extreme heat a "shooting star."

It need no special equipment to see a meteor shower. Just look up in a dark place away from city lights, ideally between midnight and predawn. Best viewed in the northern sky are the Lyrids, for example.

The brightest views of the Lyrids are seen in the Northern Hemisphere, but this year's experience may be tempered by the moonlight. But under the best of circumstances, these meteors are incredibly bright, frequently leaving behind bluish trails that hang in the sky for a few priceless seconds.

A current list of forthcoming meteor showers is maintained by the American Meteor Society for ardent astronomers ready to arrange their next cosmic experience. Of these, the early May peak of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower promises an amazing show, particularly for those in the Southern Hemisphere. Fueling this meteor shower is debris emitted by the well-known Halley's comet.

Thus, don't let the lunar interference prevent you from seeing the cosmic ballet of the Lyrid meteor shower. Get outside, settle into a comfortable place beneath the starry sky, and watch the magic happen overhead. Seeing the wonders of the universe up close is, after all, genuinely enchanted.

(Newsline Paper Teams)

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