Skateboarding at the Olympics Offspring drops unvaccinated drummer Simone Biles wins bronze Marvel's What If...? on Disney Plus Amazon's Lord of the Rings series 4th stimulus check update

2021 Lyrid meteor shower is still active: How to watch the final days

The year's shooting-star spotting season is still under way, and there's still a chance to see its first big shower.

464-lyrids-main

The 2012 Lyrid meteor shower as captured by astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station. 

NASA

Meteor season is back with the annual Lyrid meteor shower. The first three months of most years represent a relative dry spell for night-sky watchers, as typically not much happens between the Quadrantid meteor shower in early January and the Lyrids. The Lyrids signal a welcome return to venture out in the evening amid mild temperatures and take in a celestial show. 

The Lyrids peaked last week but technically the shower continues until the end of April.

The Lyrids don't produce a whole lot of meteors, perhaps 10 to 15 per hour, but are more likely to include bright, dramatic fireballs than other major showers. Every few decades we get an outburst during the Lyrids that boosts the rate up to about 100 per hour. That's not predicted to happen in 2021, but such things are also notoriously hard to predict.

The source of the Lyrids is the debris cloud left behind by a comet named C/1861 G1 Thatcher that was last seen in the 19th century and won't pass through the inner solar system again for more than two centuries. Each year, though, our planet drifts through the dust cloud it left behind on previous visits. Little space pebbles and other bits of dust and debris collide with our atmosphere and burn up high above us, producing those fleeting little light shows so many are willing to stay up late or wake up early to catch.

This year, with a moon that will be more than two-thirds full at the peak of the Lyrids, it's probably best to try to see the show before dawn and after the moon has set at your location.

But this doesn't mean viewing in the evening will necessarily be fruitless. The hours after dusk can offer a good chance to capture a bright "Earth grazer" along the horizon.

Whenever you go out to look for Lyrids, get as far away from light pollution as possible and find a spot like an open field or hilltop with a broad, unobstructed view of the night sky. Lie down, let your eyes adjust, relax and just watch.

It's not necessary to look at a particular part of the sky, but the Lyrids will appear to emanate outward from their namesake constellation Lyra, traveling away from that part of the sky like spokes on a wheel. So if you can find Lyra and orient yourself toward it, that's great but absolutely not required.

Stay warm, stay safe and enjoy the space show! If you amateur astrophotographers happen to catch any great Lyrid fireballs, please share them with @EricCMack on Twitter.

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.