The 2014 annual Lyrids meteor shower peaks on April 22nd and promises to be a better event than last year when the 85% illuminated Moon significantly interfered. For this year's spectacle the Moon is at last quarter (50% illuminated) rises a few hours before sunrise and hence not a massive factor. It's best seen from mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere locations.
The Lyrids shower activity last from April 16th to April 26th. Although the peak period is short it's also well worth looking in particular on the day before and after. Usually the meteors are of magnitude +2, but there are occasional fireballs that streak through the sky casting shadows for a short time and leaving a trail of dust and debris as they disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere.
The Lyrids radiant is located inside Hercules very near to the border with Lyra and only 6 degrees from the 5th brightest star in the sky, Vega (mag. 0.0). Normally the Lyrids are a reasonably strong shower and this year up to 20 meteors per hour can be expected. Contrast that with the year's best showers, the August Perseids and the December Geminids, both of which produce typical rates of 60 per hour.
Unlike sporadic meteors that originate from anywhere in the sky, periodic shower meteors can always be traced back to the same part of the sky - the radiant point of the meteor shower. Therefore, spotting these shooting stars could not be easier…just focus on the radiant point. The answer is not that simple. The problem is although the meteors do originate from the radiant point they can streak across almost any part of the sky! Therefore its best to scan a large area surrounding the radiant, but not to directly look at it.
Lyrids Data Table 2014
|Meteor shower name
|Meteor shower abbreviation
|Hercules / Lyra border
|April 16th -> April 26th
|C/1861 G1 Thatcher
|Also known as Alpha Lyrids or April Lyrids meteor shower
Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher Data Table (at epoch May 25th, 1861)
|C/1861 G1 Thatcher
|A. E. Thatcher
|April 5th, 1861
|Semi-major axis (AU)
|Orbital period (years)
|Longitude of ascending node (degrees)
|June 3rd, 1861
|June 6th, 2276