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Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend: How to watch

April 20, 2013|By Deborah Netburn
  • A likely Lyrid meteor streaks over Earth on the night of April 22, 2012, in this image taken by astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station.
A likely Lyrid meteor streaks over Earth on the night of April 22, 2012, in… (Don Pettit / NASA / JSC )

Hey there, tenacious sky watchers: Forecasters say the Lyrid meteor shower will peak late Sunday night and into Monday morning, so set your alarm clocks and gather your blankets. You've got a show to watch.

The Lyrid meteor shower takes place each April as our planet passes through debris left by the tail of the Comet Thatcher.

The meteors are actually little bits of that debris, often no larger than a grain of sand, that burn up in  Earth's atmosphere, causing light to streak across the sky. 

Photos: Amazing images from space

The Lyrid meteor shower was first recorded more than 2,000 years ago by Chinese astronomers who wrote that "stars fell like rain," according to Sky and Telescope

These days, however, the Lyrids are decidedly less dramatic. Astronomers say to expect 10 to 20 meteors per hour at the shower's peak.

And because the moon will be almost full and very bright during the shower's peak, the best viewing will likely be between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Monday, after the moon has set but before dawn renders the meteors invisible.

This is definitely a shower you are going to have to work to enjoy, but it is also a shower that very occasionally, and unpredictably, puts on a spectacular show. 

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