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Lyrids meteors expected to peak April 21

Sky map of the northeast sky just after 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 21 above Hilo. This skymap has been made with the planetarium software available at and prepared for Hawaii 24/7 by Gerrit van der Plas.

Gerrit van der Plas | Special to Hawaii 24/7

The Lyrids are a pretty easygoing meteor shower, during which you should expect to see 10-20 shooting stars per hour for average viewing conditions. If you have never seen Lyrids before, 2012 is a great year to change that.

The Lyrids are not one of the biggest meteor showers of the year (2012’s best meteor showers will be the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December), but because the peak of the Lyrids coincides with a new moon they are very easy to see.

Stargazers can see Lyrids between April 16 and April 26, but to see most you should watch during the (relatively short, less than a day) peak of the shower the night of Saturday, April 21.

What is a Meteor Shower?

Meteor showers occur when earth flies through a trail of interplanetary dust, gas and ice that has been left by a comet. As these particles are swept up by our planet they heat up and burn in our atmosphere while leaving a short, bright trail of light. This trail is what you know as a shooting star.

There are many meteor showers visible each year, and some meteor showers show more shooting stars than others. How active a meteor shower will be depends on many things.

For example: How ‘thick’ the dust trail left by the comet is determines for an important part how many shooting stars there will be visible, but to actually see most of these shooting stars you should be at a very dark place.

Being away from the city helps (Mauna Kea or Waimea anyone?), and a new moon is always better than a full moon. Finally, altitude also makes a big difference.

Where can you see the Lyrids from Hawaii?

The radiant of the Lyrids is close to the constellation Lyra, which rises Saturday night around 10:30 p.m. above the north-eastern horizon and is visible for the rest of the night. The best viewing conditions are between midnight and 5 a.m. (1 hour before sunrise).

The easiest way to find Lyra is to first look for the Big dipper, and then look to the bottom right for the bright star Vega.

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(Gerrit van der Plas is a frequent visitor to the Big Island and writes for, which promotes sustainable tourism and has a special focus on astronomical events on Hawaii.)

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