Lights Off, Blankets Out: Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

French riot police officers patrol on the Champs Elysees boulevard with the Arc of Triomphe in background in Paris Friday

This year's second major meteor shower will peak sometime late Friday night and early Saturday morning at a rate of 18 meteors per hour, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While the meteors will originate from the same source (around the constellation Lyra), there's no need to stare in one particular area, as they'll make themselves known all across the sky.

The best viewing should occur between between 2 a.m. and dawn Saturday.

The Lyrids fired up Monday and will peak Saturday.

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As the bits of debris from the comet crash through the Earth's upper atmosphere they vaporise, turning into the colourful meteor shower.

In terms of the best physical location to spot the show, the western side of the United States and the Great Lakes are being treated to clear skies tonight.

Weather aside, viewing conditions are favorable this year because the waning crescent moon won't wash out the sky with light. Up to 20 meteors per hour are expected to be streaking across the night sky. In mid-April of each year, Earth runs into the stream of cosmic debris from the comet which causes the Lyrid meteor shower and the resulting shooting stars seen from Earth.

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It's recommended that you step outside and look up at the sky 20 minutes before the shower is due to take place. It doesn't show you the glowing streaks in the sky, but its fascinating to watch meteoroids show up as multicoloured peaks in these scrolling, auto-updating 3D radar graphs. "Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up", NASA advises.

If you're not in the Northern Hemisphere, or the weather is miserable where you are, you can also check out live coverage of the event over at Slooh (membership required).

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