• The Lyrids meteor shower is peaking this week
  • It breaks the meteor drought from January to mid-April
  • It's best to see the meteor shower after moonset 

Skywatchers may want to prepare for an all-nighter this week as the Lyrids meteor shower is set to peak Thursday.

After months of a meteor shower drought, April has a rather special treat for skywatchers this week as the Lyrid meteor shower is set to peak in the early morning hours Thursday. The Lyrids are among the oldest meteor showers, with the ancient Chinese having records of it as far back as 687 B.C. They usually happen when the Earth passes the orbital path of comet Thatcher each year, EarthSky explained.

Considered a "medium-strength" meteor shower by the American Meteor Society (AMS), the Lyrid meteor shower often produces a moderate show of 10 to 15 meteors per hour during its peak. This may include bright meteors and occasional fireballs.

By comparison, the upcoming eta Aquariid meteor shower is predicted to produce some 10 to 30 meteors, albeit with few fireballs. In contrast, the popular Perseids can produce 50 to 75 "shower members" per hour at their peak.

That said, the Lyrids are also known to have major outbursts. Such was the case in 1803, the 1920s and the 1980s. For instance, Americans saw an impressive 100 Lyrid meteors per hour in 1982, and so did Greek observers in 1922. The next "grand meteor display" from the Lyrids may be in the 2040s, the AMS said.

Although such a major outburst is not expected this year, the Lyrid meteor shower may still be an excellent show to watch. As mentioned, it comes after the January to mid-April meteor drought. What's more, meteor showers tend to be unpredictable.

"No Lyrid outburst is predicted for this year, but you never know," EarthSky said.

How And Where To Watch The Lyrids: Some Tips On Viewing

The waxing gibbous moon might interrupt the viewing experience this week, so the AMS recommends waiting for the right time to view the meteor shower. That would be after the moon has set.

According to NASA, the moon will set some 30 minutes before signs of dawn begin to show Thursday morning, so there might only be a "short window" to really view the event with dark skies. As such, EarthSky recommends being aware of the moonset hours in one's area.

As always, it's best to try to watch the meteor shower farther away from city lights as this may further obstruct the view. Giving one's eyes ample time to adjust to the darkness is also important in sky watching.

It's also vital to face the direction of the Lyrids' radiant, the AMS said, as this would help skywatchers determine if the meteor they saw was a Lyrid or not. Those who won't be available Thursday may still catch a glimpse of it in the early mornings around the peak date.

Although skywatchers may see a modest meteor shower this week, they may still catch some other celestial sights, NASA said. For instance, they can also spot the constellation Leo, which is easy to spot in the night sky the entire month of April. Also, skywatchers may catch Thursday the "Belt of Venus," which will form a "rosy" arch later in the day at sunset.

Lyrid Meteor Shower
The Lyrids peak. Reuters