How, when to observe the Lyrid meteor shower in Western Pa.
Apr 21, 2022
TribLIVE's Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox. The annual Lyrid meteor shower will peak on Friday, giving Western Pennsylvanians the opportunity to view the spectacle that could bring more than dozen meteors per hour into view. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com that this year’s Lyrid shower should produce about 18 visible meteors per hour, depending on how clear and dark the sky is. The best time to view the Lyrid meteor show is early Friday morning before dawn. There might also be some decent observation times just after midnight, as the moon won’t have risen yet. And according to the Pittsburgh Clear Sky Chart , cloud cover just after midnight on Friday will only be between 10-20%. But just before dawn is even better. At 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday, the Clear Sky Chart says the sky will be clear of any cloud cover. The moon will be up by then, but it is a waning moon that will be 61% illuminated during the Lyrid’s peak. However, Wagman Observatory director Tom Reiland said that stargazers should temper expectations of the Lyrids. He said when the moon rises around 3 a.m. it will be relatively bright and will likely make it more difficult to see meteors. “I don’t think it will be too ideal, and the moon is going to be rising,” said Reiland. “It really averages about 10 to 12 meteors an hour, under ideal conditions. I wouldn’t get too excited.”
If you do make it out, Reiland said it’s best to find a dark place to camp, likely outside of the city. He said the hill where the Wagman Observatory sits in Deer Lakes Park is a good place to view, and said other areas north and east of the city are also ideal. Though the peak falls on Friday morning, the showers should extend beyond just that day. Reiland said Wagman is hosting a star party on Saturday night, and it is open to the public. There is space to gaze at Mingo Creek Park Observatory in Washington County, which will also be hosting a star party starting at 6 p.m. The point in the sky where the meteors will appear to originate, aka the radiant, will be high in the night sky inside the constellation Lyra to the northeast of the Vega star. According to Space.com, Lyrid meteors are small pieces of the Comet Thatcher, which orbits the sun about once every 415 years, but pieces of debris left in the comet’s wake make an appearance each year. Tails caused by the debris can be visible well outside the radiant, so keep an eye out. Reiland said that the Lyrids are typically less impressive than other annual meteor showers because there isn’t much debris left on the Comet Thatcher. He recommends stargazers also try to observe the Perseid meteor shower in summer, or the Geminids in fall. Ryan Deto is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Ryan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter . Support Local Journalism and help us continue covering the stories that matter to you and your community.