Look up to the sky for the Lyrid meteor shower and the full pink moon

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The total solar eclipse has come and gone, but sky-gazers have reason to keep looking up — a meteor shower will peak this week right before a full moon rises. The bright orb may steal some of the Lyrids’ thunder, but experts have some tips on how best to view the celestial spectacle.

The Lyrid meteor shower will be most active Sunday night through the early morning hours of Monday, according to the American Meteor Society. And April’s full moon, also known as the pink moon, reaches the crest of its full phase at 7:49 p.m. ET Tuesday.

During the Lyrids’ peak, onlookers typically catch a glimpse of up to 18 meteors per hour, but this year the moon’s brightness will interfere with the sighting of faint meteors. The shower will be most visible to folks in the Northern Hemisphere, said Ashley King, a postdoctoral researcher of planetary sciences at London’s Natural History Museum. The Lyrids’ radiant, or the point the meteors appear to originate from, will not rise high enough in the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky for high rates of meteors to be seen, he explained.

How to catch sight of a Lyrid meteor

Night owls aiming to view the Lyrids will need to let their eyes adjust by going outside at least 10 to 15 minutes before trying to spot a meteor, King added. Since meteors can appear all over the sky, experts don’t recommended using a telescope or binoculars due to the devices’ small fields of view, according to NASA.

“The best time to go out (to see a meteor) is kind of the very early morning before the sun comes up,” King said. “If you can get somewhere dark and possibly get up high, so you can see lots of the sky, that’s ideal.”

The Lyrids are not known for being the fastest or the brightest meteors, but the shower could still provide a worthwhile celestial light show — and there is always a chance for surprises.

“You never know quite what you are going to see, and seeing a meteor is such a really nice way to see what’s going on and see that the solar system is active,” King said. “In a way, (by seeing a meteor) you’re looking at … some of the oldest materials that formed in the solar system.”

Look to the sky for the pink moon

The pink moon will be visible to everyone across the world, since Earth’s natural satellite will appear to be full for a couple of days.

Despite its name, this full moon will look like any other, said Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist with the University of Colorado Boulder. Any full moon may occasionally take on a reddish hue when near the horizon, due to light passing through Earth’s atmosphere.

The pink moon actually got its moniker due to its annual appearance not long after the start of spring, much like its namesake, a hot pink wildflower called Phlox subulata that blooms in early springtime, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

It’s best to view the full moon with binoculars, or even just the naked eye, as it might be too bright to view through a telescope, Hayne said.

“Our closest celestial neighbor has played a starring role in both human mythologies and the evolution of life on Earth. It’s also one of the most beautiful sights in the night sky that is visible without a telescope,” Hayne said in an email. “Looking up at a full moon is a great opportunity to be reminded of the vastness of space and our connection to the cosmos.”

The pink moon rises next to Orvieto Cathedral in the region of Umbria in Italy, on April 6, 2023. This year, April's full moon will peak on Tuesday. - Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto/Getty Images
The pink moon rises next to Orvieto Cathedral in the region of Umbria in Italy, on April 6, 2023. This year, April's full moon will peak on Tuesday. - Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto/Getty Images

More full moons this year

Of the 12 full moons in 2024, the September and October lunar events are set to be supermoons, according to EarthSky.

Definitions of a supermoon can vary, but the term generally denotes a full moon that is closer to Earth than normal and thus appears larger and brighter in the night sky. Some astronomers say the phenomenon occurs when the moon is within 90% of perigee — its closest approach to Earth in orbit.

Here are the remaining full moons of 2024:

? May 23: Flower moon

? June 21: Strawberry moon

? July 21: Buck moon

? August 19: Sturgeon moon

? September 17: Harvest moon

? October 17: Hunter’s moon

? November 15: Beaver moon

? December 15: Cold moon

Meteor showers of 2024

Sky-gazers can look forward to a multitude of meteor showers still to come this year, according to the American Meteor Society. Here are the dates when meteor events are expected to peak.

? Eta Aquariids: May 4-5

? Southern delta Aquariids: July 29-30

? Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31

? Perseids: August 11-12

? Draconids: October 7-8

? Orionids: October 20-21

? Southern Taurids: November 4-5

? Northern Taurids: November 11-12

? Leonids: November 17-18

? Geminids: December 13-14

? Ursids: December 21-22

Solar and lunar eclipses

While the most highly anticipated of 2024’s eclipse events was the total solar eclipse on April 8, an annular solar eclipse will occur on October 2 over parts of South America. In this type of eclipse, the moon is at the farthest point from Earth within its orbit as it passes between our planet and the sun, so it can’t completely block the fiery orb. Instead, an annular solar eclipse creates a “ring of fire” in the sky as the sun’s light surrounds the moon.

Meanwhile, a partial lunar eclipse will appear over Europe and much of Asia, Africa, North America and South America between September 17 and 18. During this event, Earth moves between the sun and the full moon in an almost perfect alignment, causing Earth’s shadow to obscure a portion of the lunar surface for those in the eclipse path.

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