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Lyrid meteor shower: Where to see this weekend's cosmic show

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks in the skies

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks in the skies over Earth while NASA astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station trained his video camera on Earth below. (April 22, 2012) Credit: NASA

Stargazers, stake out your piece of sky. A major "shooting star" shower is making an appearance this weekend.

It's the annual Lyrid meteor shower, one of the biggest and "a very good shower to go see," said Bill Bogardus, president of the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold.

Shooting stars can be spotted from sunset into the wee hours of the morning this weekend -- weather permitting, he said -- with about 3 a.m. an especially good time for reclining and watching the superheated cosmic debris "rain down."

The shower is named for the constellation Lyra, from which the meteors appear to be emanating.

Overnight Sunday would be peak time for viewing, but Saturday may be the better option thanks to cloud cover forecast for Sunday night, said Jeffrey Tongue, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton. "Clouds are the enemy here," he said.

Area stargazers can head to four state parks that are scheduled to remain open Sunday night, said the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: Jones Beach, West End 11; Gov. Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow, Field 3; Montauk Point, upper parking lot; and Wildwood, main parking lot.

Any open, dark area is good for viewing, said Bogardus, with another option being the grounds of the Custer Institute and Observatory, which opens Saturday at sunset.

Bring a reclining chair and a heavy coat. Temperatures will be in the mid-30s on Saturday, mid- to upper-30s on Sunday, Tongue said.

Plenty of patience is also called for. Shooting stars don't come "zip, zip, zip like traffic on the Long Island Expressway," Bogardus said. "If I can count like 20 in an hour, it's a pretty good night."

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