On April 21, 2020, in London, the clear skies created...

On April 21, 2020, in London, the clear skies created by the new moon coincided with the Lyrid meteor shower to create a dazzling display. Credit: Getty Images / Simon Robling

Stargazers will be in for a treat as one of the oldest known meteor showers is making an appearance this Earth Day. The annual Lyrid meteor shower, which has been active since Friday, April 15, is expected to peak overnight on Thursday and Friday starting around 11 p.m., experts said.

Though Lyrid is not one of the largest meteor showers of the year, it has been observed for 2,700 years, according to NASA. The first recorded sighting of a Lyrid meteor shower was in 687 B.C. by the Chinese.

What are the Lyrids?

The Lyrids are created by the pieces of space debris that interact with the Earth’s atmosphere and originate from comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. Comet Thatcher was discovered on April 5, 1861 by astronomer A.E. Thatcher.

The comet last reached perihelion -- closest approach to the sun -- in 1861 and left dust gradually spread into a trail around their orbits. Every year, the Earth passes the trails, the debris collides with the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky, according to NASA.

The comet will not return until 2276 due to its 415-year orbit.

The Lyrids appear to particularly radiate out from the star Vega, which is the brightest star within this constellation.

What time will the meteors be most visible?

Dr. Donald Lubowich, professor and coordinator of the Astronomy Outreach Program at Hofstra University said the best time to see the shower on Long Island is about 11 p.m. through 1 a.m. when we’re facing away from the sun.

“We’re traveling through a field of debris,” Lubowich said. “As the Earth goes through a field of little rocks, some will hit and some won’t, and we just never know how many will be there.”

It’s best to view the meteors before sunrise, expected to be around 2:30 a.m.

Lubowich said the viewers will just see a “quick flash” in the sky.

Heavy showers occurred in Greece in 1922, Japan in 1945 and the U.S. in 1982, but experts don’t expect a heavy output this year.

What is the best way to view them?

The best way to view the showers is away from lights and in a places such as backyards and open fields where you have a good view of the sky.

“You need to look at the whole sky, all at one time, and the best way to do that is to lie down,” said Susan Rose, president of The Amateur Observers’ Society of New York.

Rose said no equipment, such as telescopes or binoculars, is necessary because meteors are “very short and quick.”

“The darker the area, the better chance you have of seeing meteors,” Rose said.

What's the forecast for Thursday and Friday nights?

The forecast for both days is identical, with mostly cloudy skies at night and lows in the high 40s.

“It’s a fun thing to do. It’s a family thing, a nice night you can go out and the best time is after 11 at night,” Lubowich said.

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