The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks at 11 pm, MDT, on Saturday, April 21st, 2012.
While not a particulary great shower, with a peak prediction of only 20 meteors per hour, this shower is more interesting this year for two reason: 1) The predicted peak time is at an optimal viewing hour for the western states, and 2) The Moon will be only hours old, meaning that there will be no moon in the sky to wash out meteor trails. And the icing on the cake, at least for Utah’s Wasatch Front, is the skies should be clear and the temperatures moderate.
The Name ‘Lyrids’ comes from the constellation Lyra, the Lyre. This constellation contains the ‘radiant’ of the shower, or the preceived origin point in the sky of the meteors. If you trace backward the familiar streak of light from several meteors, you would find that all your imagined lines would converge in the constellation Lyra. Lyra is just rising in the northeast at 11 pm, MDT. Any meteor trails that can’t be traced back to Lyra are not associated with this shower.
The Lyrid shower is associated with the long-period comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). This comet was discovered in 1861 and has a 415 year orbital period around the Sun.