For the next two weeks, our night sky will be treating stargazers to some bright lights. On the morning of April 22nd star gazers, will witness the legendary Lyrid meteor shower. Of course you don’t have to wait a week in order to check out something truly unique. On Monday and Tuesday we’ll be able to look up at a total lunar eclipse. This is a special eclipse though as it’s called the “blood moon” due to the red hue it takes on.
The moon’s red tint comes from dispersed light from Earth’s sunrises and sunsets facing it. Here on the east coast the partial eclipse begins at 1:58 a.m. The total eclipse will finally begin an hour later at 3:07 a.m.
The greatest part of the eclipse will begin 40 minutes after that and will last for about 1.3 hours. This total eclipse will finish at 4:25 a.m. Then the final partial eclipse will come to a close at 5:33 a.m. just before sunrise.
Also during the eclipse Mars will be the closest to earth as it has been this year.
A few days later, beginning on April 16th and lasting until the 25th, we’ll be treated to the annual Lyrid meteor shower. This event is described as one of the best meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere. The peak for the shower is said to fall on April 22nd with the greatest number of meteors soaring through the sky just before dawn.
On a moonless night you would be able to see 10 to 20 meteors but because of the phase of the moon that number will drop. Of course, if we’re lucky, we can get a real show. In 1982 American star gazers saw 100 Lyrid meteors an hour. In 1945 100 meteors per hour were seen in Japan, and in 1922, the same amount was seen in Greece.
Lyrid meteor showers start from the Constellation Lyra the Harp near the star Vega. Vega will be low over the northeastern horizon at around 10 p.m. It continues to get higher in the night sky the closer it gets to dawn. Generally, the higher Vega is in the sky, the more meteors we’re likely to see.
If you want to see the showers no special equipment is needed. Just find an open patch of land and a dark sky. The most advanced piece of equipment you’ll need will probably be a rocking chair. While the moon will phase out some stars the brightest ones will still shine through.
The Lyrid meteor shower is the oldest known shower in history. Earliest records of it go back 2,700 years. The ancient Chinese observed it in 687 BC. They described the showers as “falling like rain.”
[Source: Earth Sky]