PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Those glancing up at the sky this Friday evening will likely see a spectacular show of lights, as the 2022 Lyrid meteor shower is expected to peak around midnight.

It’s that time of year again — in late April, as the earth passes through the tail of dust and debris left behind the Comet Thatcher, viewers flock to their backyards to watch the resulting meteor shower known as the Lyrids as they streak through the night skies.

Plus, residents may be in luck this year as OMSI Director of Space Science Education told KOIN 6 News that, unlike previous years where smoke or clouds obstructed the view, the 2022 Lyrids will likely be visible from the Portland area Friday night — if people know where (and when) to look. 

“Happening tonight and tomorrow night is the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower,” Todd explained. “To view them, you’ll want to go outside after midnight and before sunrise and look for the constellation of Lyra, which is mainly now toward the east, because that is the radiant point.”

Mentioned in Chinese texts over 2,500 years ago, the Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers ever recorded, according to OMSI.

Composite image of Lyrid and not-Lyrid meteors over New Mexico from April, 2012
(Credits: NASA/MSFC/Danielle Moser)

Likening it to a showerhead, Todd said as the radiant point, the constellation Lyra is predicted to rise over the NE horizon around 10 p.m., and the path of the meteors seen throughout the sky can all be traced back to the constellation from which the Lyrids are named after.

Although the Lyrids peak is slated to strike on April 21 and 22, Todd said people will have the opportunity to spot the shower anytime between April 15 and April 29. However, he said tonight offers the best odds, as more meteors can be seen during the peak.

“If you go out tonight and keep your eyes open in any direction, you will see maybe 10 to 20 meteors per hour,” Todd explained on Friday. “They’re fast and they’re bright, but what you’re looking at is debris roughly about 60 miles above you.”

Todd continued, “They are ice particles, no larger than a grain of sand, interacting with the earth’s atmosphere, creating pressure and friction, and that is what everybody loves to watch: the meteor shower.”

Lyrid Meteor Shower sequence (NASA)_147411
Lyrid Meteor Shower sequence (NASA)

The illuminating illustration is not guaranteed though, since the moon is predicted to be at about 70% fullness which could reduce visibility. However, Todd told KOIN 6 News that he is confident locals will be able to view at least a few bursts of light during the 21-day window. 

To improve the chance of seeing the Lyrids, Todd recommended watching the skies after midnight when the Earth’s shadow will be directly overhead. 

“If you get too close to sunrise or sunset, twilight will diminish the viewing of fainter meteors,” Todd said. “The location of the radiant point is also critical. The radiant point will be above the horizon and by midnight it’s nearly overhead, so that’s when you can maximize your viewing of the meteor shower.”