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Environment & Science

5 things you need to know about this weekend's meteor shower




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Let's shoot for the stars. 

If you are a night sky watcher, you may want to look up this weekend. The Lyrids meteor shower is streaking across our skies and it will peak on Saturday, just days before the new moon, when the sky is darkest. 

To tell us a little bit on where and how to see it, we spoke with Jane Houston Jones. She's a public outreach specialist for JPL and hosts a podcast called "What's Up," which is about the solar system. Here are her five tips on this weekend's meteor shower:

From 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., a couple of hours (on Saturday morning) before dawn is the best time to see the meteor shower. 

Experts estimate meteors will fall at a rate of about 20 per hour during those times.

I would go to some California desert, or somewhere that's away from city light. There are plenty of open spaces, forest, and parks in L.A. County. You don't have to go that far. And I have actually seen meteors from my home in Monrovia.

Jones recommends going into your backyard, as far away as you can from streetlights or other light sources. She also recommends the desert in Anza-Borrego or up in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The best thing about this year is that there's no full moon to wash out the meteors in the sky. We are really close to a new moon, which means that there's no moon. The last showers have been lukewarm because of the big bright moon. 

If you were looking through a telescope, your field would be so narrow. Your eyes would be your best astronomical device in this case.

Meteor showers are the most accessible of celestial events.  All you need is a comfortable chair and your eyes to observe it.

Jupiter and Saturn will also be visible on early Saturday morning. But you'll really need a telescope to appreciate their beauty. 

Meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet or fragmented asteroid. When a comet nears the sun, its icy surface heats up. As it does, it releases clouds of gas, dirt and dust that form a trail of debris that can stretch for millions of miles, Jones explained.

“What happens is, little bits of that comet debris, which are really no bigger than a grain of sand, create streaks of light in the sky as they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere,” she said.

Click on the blue media player above to hear the full interview

This story has been updated.