Want to see a spectacular show in the sky? Set your alarm for predawn Thursday morning.
The Lyrid meteor shower, which has made an appearance every April for the past 2,700 years, is set to peak in the predawn hours on Thursday, April 22, and continue Friday morning. The meteor shower has been known to occasionally wow skygazers with as many as 100 shooting stars per hour, according to NASA.
Here's what you need to know about where to look and when to watch.
What time can you see the Lyrid meteor shower?
Although the meteor shower is active every year from around April 16 to 25, according to EarthSky.org, there are a few nights you won't want to miss. This year, the Lyrids are expected to peak on the morning of Thursday, April 22. The best time to watch is when the sky is fully dark, between when the moon sets and dawn. Earthsky recommends researching when the moon will set in your area when planning your outing.
Where to look
The radiant point for the Lyrid meteor shower is near the constellation Lyra, which has the bright star Vega in the east. However, you don't need to be an astronomy buff to spot the shooting stars. NASA recommends simply lying flat on your back with your feet facing east and looking up.
Deborah Byrd, editor-in-chief of EarthSky, told TODAY, "We like to say that meteor showers are like fishing. You go out in the country to some scenic spot, and you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. And sometimes you catch something.
"That said, the Lyrids typically produce 10-15 meteors per hour at their peak. That’s one every few minutes," she said. "But meteor showers are inherently unpredictable, and there are no guarantees."
What causes the Lyrids
Meteoroids, or "space rocks," as NASA describes them, produce shooting stars when they enter Earth's atmosphere at high speed and burn up. In this case, the Lyrid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The comet takes 415 years to orbit around the sun, and the shower occurs annually when the Earth crosses its orbital path, according to EarthSky.
The best way to watch
Special equipment isn't necessary to see the meteor shower. The best way to watch is to go outside and find an area of the sky that is dark, open and away from artificial lights, according to NASA. You can settle into a lawn chair or lay down on a blanket and gaze into the sky to relax and enjoy the annual show.