The First Meteor Showers in Months Are About to Arrive. Here's What to Look For.
We haven't had a good meteor shower since January. That's about to change.
There are few things in the night sky as striking as an active meteor shower. It's an impressive sight that gives the added satisfaction of the thrill of the chase. You have to get to dark skies on the right night when the weather is clear. You have to be there at the right moment to see that awe-inspiring display.
It's been a while since stargazers have had the privilege of catching a shower. Even if winter weather wouldn't have kept you inside, there hasn't been a big one since January. That, however, is about to change. April and May will bring meteor showers back onto the stargazing calendar.
Neither display will quite dazzle like the Perseids or Geminids, two of the showers that most consistently produce jaw-dropping displays. Nonetheless, the meteor showers in April and May will be impressive spectacles.
First up, in April, the Lyrid meteor shower arrives. The shower has already started producing meteors but will reach its peak on the night of April 21 into the morning of April 22. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office told Thrillist that stargazers should expect anywhere from ten to 20 meteors per hour when the Lyrids peak.
However, the moon will be bright enough to cause some interference. Early in the night, the moon's light will stop stargazers from seeing as many meteors as they might otherwise. Cooke suggests heading out early on the morning of April 22 to avoid the moon's interference.
Shortly after the Lyrids hit the heights, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will reach its peak. That's going to happen on the night of May 5 into the morning of May 6. This shower, created by the debris from Halley's Comet, could put on a show with up to 40 meteors per hour, according to Cooke.
When heading out to see any meteor shower, it's recommended you head toward dark skies and away from the light pollution of cities. That's especially true with the Eta Aquarids because the shower tends to produce faint meteors.
In addition to heading out of the city, you'll want to go meteor-hunter for the Eta Aquarids after midnight to avoid any interference from the moon. "You've got a last-quarter moon. So, you want to start observing around 2 am and go to dawn," Cooke said.
If you've been meteor-starved, we aren't quite getting the Perseids, but some good displays are finally on the way.
Ready to go stargazing?
Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.