“Falling like rain” is how the Chinese described the sight of the Lyrid meteor showers in 687 B.C. And every April, this bright laser-like storm appears in the constellation Lyra, near the bright star Vega.
But New Yorkers need to get as far away as possible from the city for the best views, which began April 15th – tax day, peaking on Earth Day (the 22nd) before ending on the 29th. No telescope is necessary.
“Naked eye, laying back on a blanket or chaise lounge, with a nice Merlot,” said Bart Fried, executive vice president of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York City. “Binos and telescopes are of no use for spotting the fast-moving and fleeting shooting stars.”
This cosmic rain is debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, which is on its (relatively) short solar orbit of 417 years. Its next full appearance is due 2278, but its lingering dust continue to visit the Earth every year.
City lights make it near impossible to see these spectacular light beams. There is also a bright April full moon, known as the Pink Moon, on the evening of April 16th. The best night for sky-watching is late evening on April 22nd until dawn. There will be less moonlight during that time — and a chance to see a waning Moon along with Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn line up in the predawn sky.
“Be sure to look towards the east at least an hour before sunrise to see this celestial dance,” said Kat Troche, co-host of the astronomy podcast, AAA SKY.
For New Yorkers who can’t leave the city limits, the Amateur Astronomers Association will host a stargazing event on the night of peak at Lincoln Center. There are other wonders hovering just above the city, too. April is a good time of year to catch a glimpse of the Orion Nebula and several open star clusters such as the Beehive in the constellation Cancer.