April features a pair of cosmic spectacles: The annual Lyrid meteor shower and 2021's first supermoon

Slone Terranella, Detroit Free Press
·2 min read

If you look up, you may see a meteor shower painting streaks of light across the night sky, starting today until April 25.

The Lyrid meteor shower takes place every year, and it happens due to the Earth moving through the remnants of the tail of a comet named Thatcher, said Michael Narlock, head of astronomy at Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

"Thatcher comes around every 400 years or so, but basically the solar system is strewn with debris of comet tails," Narlock said. "When that debris hits the Earth's atmosphere, it burns up and we see it as beautiful streaks in the nighttime sky."

The meteor shower is active from April 16-25, peaking April 22 in the predawn hours. The meteor shower will occur near the Lyra constellation, which is denoted by the bright star Vega.

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"What I usually suggest is go out to a dark place, as far away from the city lights as you can get. Take your camping equipment like your Coleman grill, Coleman tents or something like that," he said. "Lay down and look up. That's the best advice."

VPC THUMB LYRID
VPC THUMB LYRID

Another celestial event coming this month is the year's first supermoon, also called the pink moon, which will happen April 26.

Although adorably dubbed as the "pink moon," Narlock said the moon will unfortunately not be pink.

"The moon does change color depending on how much stuff and particles are in the atmosphere," Narlock said. "It's the same reason, essentially, why the sunset and sunrises are a nice red."

"Supermoon," isn't a proper astronomical term, but it has come to mean the moon is closer in orbit to Earth, Narlock said.

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"If you had a picture of the regular moon and a picture of a supermoon, and you put them side-by-side, you would notice a difference, a difference both in size and in brightness," Narlock said. "However, because you won't have that ability, when people see the moon in the nighttime sky, supermoon or not, most people will not notice a single difference."

According to the Farmer's Almanac's website, the "pink moon" name comes from the springtime bloom of certain wildflowers like creeping phlox, also called "pink moss." The supermoon will most likely have a golden hue, and its peak illumination will take place late on April 26.

Contact Slone Terranella: STerranella@freepress.com and follow her on Twitter @SloneTerranella.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Lyrid meteor shower, first supermoon of 2021 light up April night sky