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Earth Day 2021 will kick off with a meteor shower

The Lyrid meteor shower will peak tonight and into the early morning hours, kicking off a special Earth Day celebration that is focused on restoring our planet. 

According to the American Meteor Society, the Lyrid meteors will be visible in all parts of the sky, and all over the world, between midnight and dawn. The best time for viewing will be just before twilight, around 4:00 to 5:00 a.m., when the Lyrids’ radiant lies highest above the horizon in a dark sky.

“That doesn’t mean you should rule out the late evening hours, though,” reports EarthSky. “Late evening might be the best time to catch an earthgrazer, which is a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across your sky.”

The Lyrids, which are the most visible in the Northern Hemisphere, have been observed for 2,700 years, according to NASA. During the peak, you can expect to see about 10 to 20 meteors per hour. However, NASA notes that the Lyrids can surprise watchers with as many as 100 meteors per hour. “Sightings of these heavier showers occurred in 1803 (Virginia), 1922 (Greece), 1945 (Japan), and 1982 (U.S.).”

Each year, the Lyrids can be seen shooting through the sky from around April 16th through the 25th, as particles shed from Comet 1861 G1 Thatcher. 

This year, the moon will be more than half full, making it more difficult to spot a fireball until after moonset.

“These dazzling meteors are fast and bright, with a striking golden trail of dust streaking behind them,” said CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.

The earliest account of the annual Lyrid meteor shower was documented by Chinese astronomers in 687 BC, who said that “at midnight, stars dropped down like rain.”

NASA shares the following viewing tips:

“Find an area well away from city 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.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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