Up to 20 meteors per hour will likely be visible overnight Saturday to Sunday (April 21-22), according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Space Science Telescope Institute (STScI).
While the Lyrids might seem like they’re emerging from the darkness, they’re actually caused by the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. This cosmic object sheds particles of dust and debris, which are responsible for the annual meteor shower. The Lyrids have been observed for well over 2,000 years — making them one of the oldest known meteor showers — yet Thatcher was first discovered in 1861 by amateur astronomer A.E. Thatcher as he was scanning the skies above his New York home.
The comet’s debris has sometimes been observed to produce “Lyrid fireballs,” which are very bright meteors that leave behind a smokey trail and cast a shadow for a split second.