West Virginia Nature March 17, 2020
Surges Of Up To 100 Meteors Per Hour May Light Up The West Virginia Skies During The 2020 Lyrid Meteor Shower This April
Finally, a Spring 2020 event that we can 100% guarantee will not be canceled: the Lyrid Meteor Shower. That’s right, thousands of shootings stars are coming to a sky near you this April, and you don’t want to miss it!
Every April 16-25, there's an astronomical event known as the Lyrid Meteor Shower — or the April Lyrids.
During this meteor show, expect to routinely see 10-20 meteors an hour, with peak activity anticipated in the early morning hours of April 22.
But every few decades, the shower unexpectedly produces surges of up to 100 meteors per hour! The last recorded Lyrid surge was in April of 1982, so we're due for another surge at any time.
Even without a surge, on a clear night, you're bound to see some bright meteors, including a few that leave an ionized gas glow (known as a "persistent train") trailing behind them.
Although popularly known as shooting stars, meteors are actually just small dust and ice particles associated with the orbit of a comet.
The Monongahela National Forest is full of magnificent night sky views.
The "shooting star" phenomenon is caused by comet debris ranging in size from a grain of sand to a piece of gravel burning up as it enters the earth's atmosphere at speeds of around 134,000 miles per hour.
Summit Lake, West Virginia is another great location for night sky viewing.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower is caused by debris from the Comet Thatcher. Even though we see the debris every year, the Thatcher Comet itself is only visible once every 415 years (it's not due again until 2276).
Here is a night view from the Durbin Rail Depot in West Virginia.
As you can tell from some of the photos in this post, the wild, wonderful Mountain State is an astronomer's paradise!
The stars reflected in Spruce Knob Lake, near the highest point in West Virginia, shine brightly in one of the best, darkest, highest stargazing points in the Eastern United States.
West Virginia's large rural areas, high mountain peaks, and extra dark skies make it ideal for spotting shooting stars, planets, constellations, and galaxies.
If you live in an area where light pollution blocks your view of the universe, this April might be a great time to plan a camping trip or night hike to a more remote location.
After all, there's nothing else quite like spending the night under a roof of West Virginia stars.
Where do you go when you want to see the stars? Have you ever stayed up late — or got up early — to see the April Lyrids? Let us know in the comments!