Is The Lyrid Meteor Shower Worth Watching And What Does It Mean?

Photo: Getty Images.
The Lyrid meteor shower is upon, but don’t waste too much time thanking your lucky stars. Although meteor showers are generally cool astrological phenomena (and excuses to drag your SO stargazing), this one may disappoint you. It is basically the ugly step-sister to the more astrologically impressive Perseid and Geminid meteor showers. Here’s some information that will help you discern whether this astronomical event is worth all the hype.

When should I watch this crazy meteor shower?

You’ll be able to best see the Lyrids Sunday and Monday nights, according to Adam Block, an observatory specialist at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. Monday earlier on in the night, before the moon rises high into the sky — it will drown out the stars — may be the best bet for viewing, Block says. But the shower will peak late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.
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How should I watch the meteor shower?

There are best practices for watching meteor showers. Get away from light pollution in cities, and avoid the moon if you can. And then sit tight. “If you’re not looking in exactly the right direction, you won’t see it,” Block says. “So, one of the keys to seeing meteors is you have to be very patient and commit to watching the sky.”

What is a meteor shower anyway?

The easy answer? The solar system is dirty. When the Earth orbits the sun, there are particles of dust it has to go through. Imagine these particles as tiny tumbleweeds on the solar system highway. These dust-like particles are common, Block explains, and any night of the year you can see the particles enter the earth’s atmosphere traveling between 30 to 80 kilometers per second. “That’s faster than a bullet,” Block points out. The particles burn up when they enter the atmosphere. On an average night there are six to eight meteors each hour. This is why you might think you see “a falling star” every now and then.
On the night of a meteor shower, we’re just passing through more little particles of dust than we normally would, Block says. These extra particles come from comets, which leave the particles in their wake as they orbit the sun. “If one of the comet trails coincides with the same plain that the earth orbits the sun on, we pass through the trail of meteor stream,” Block explains. “We will see more meteors entering the atmosphere on those nights.” Lyrids specifically are particles from the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, Block says.
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Is there such a thing as a meteor bath?

No! But you can buy meteorite bath towels.

Should You Even Bother With This Meteor Shower?

It depends on how easily impressed you are. If you are patient and dazzled by the night sky, by all means, get out your star-gazing blanket and have a field day. But Block says that Lyrid meteor showers, which happen yearly, are not ones to write home about.
When the Perseid and Geminid meteor showers happen in August and December, respectively, they make the Lyrids look like child’s play. During the Perseid meteor showers, you might see an average of 60 to 100 meteors each hour, and the Geminid numbers are similar. But the average amount of meteors an hour during the Lyrids is about 10 or 20, Block says.
“The Lyrids are terrible — they’re not the big show,” Block jokes. “There is one thing though. It is variable from year to year. In 1982, Americans saw an outburst. For the Lyrids, there was a little clump in the stream. And they saw about 100 per hour for about an hour. The same thing happened in 1945… So you never know.”
The problem is, seeing about 100 meteors per hour is right on par with the other two showers we mentioned. So consider saving your energy for the astrological big leagues.

What Does It All Mean?

We’ve previously reported that some astrologers value meteor showers as signs that inspiration and major change is about to strike, while others don’t even mention them in their star forecasts.
Vanessa Montgomery, astrologer and author of Star Power: A Simple Guide to Astrology for the Modern Mystic, believes the former. “Symbolically the meteor shower may mark a crossroads, so make the right decision,” Montgomery says. “I suggest readers note not only what’s happening in the heavens above, but also below... Make the right decisions to stay on track rather than let pride or presence set in, which as we know, always leads to a fall.”
This is good sound advice, which you could arguably at all times of the year. Not everyone believes that Lyrids have this deeper meaning though. “There is no extra meaning,” Block says. “The dust on your bookshelf has just as much meaning as the meaning behind the meteors.”We’ve previously reported that some astrologers value meteor showers as signs that inspiration and major change is about to strike, while others don’t even mention them in their star forecasts.Vanessa Montgomery, astrologer and author of Star Power: A Simple Guide to Astrology for the Modern Mystic, believes the former. “Symbolically the meteor shower may mark a crossroads, so make the right decision,” Montgomery says. “I suggest readers note not only what’s happening in the heavens above, but also below... Make the right decisions to stay on track rather than let pride or presence set in, which as we know, always leads to a fall.”This is good sound advice, which you could arguably at all times of the year. Not everyone believes that Lyrids have this deeper meaning though. “There is no extra meaning,” Block says. “The dust on your bookshelf has just as much meaning as the meaning behind the meteors.”
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