Anyone that is willing to look to the skies in the early hours tonight will be rewarded with the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. If you want to be one of those people, here are a few things you might want to know.
What is the Lyrid meteor shower?
Named after the constellation Lyra – as that’s where the shower is focused – the Lyrid meteor showers occur every year in April.
The meteor shower is formed by the comet Thatcher, which was first observed by astronomer A.E. Thatcher in 1861 during its closest approach to Earth. Thatcher has a relatively stable orbit so every year when Earth and Thatcher’s orbits intersect, we get to see the Lyrid meteor shower.
This has been recorded as far back as 687BC by Chinese astronomers and a study of Thatcher’s orbit suggests that the meteor shower has been active for a million years.
How many meteors will I see?
You can expect 10 to 20 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak. Every 60 years there is a more dramatic outburst where the Lyrids can exceed 90 meteors per hour. The last time that happened was in 1982 so it’ll be a little while before we see those sort of numbers again.
It’s best to view the meteor shower from the Northern hemisphere. That could prove difficult it you’re not willing to shell out for international flights to watch a meteor shower but you’ll still be able to get a decent show from down under.
When is it?
The Lyrid meteor shower occurs between April 16 and April 25 every year. The peak is expected early tomorrow morning around 4am AEST (2am AWST).
You’ll want to keep an eye on the northern horizon, where Lyra is located. It helps to glance about instead of focusing on one area.
Artificial light will ruin your night vision. Avoid looking at your phone between meteors and if you can get to an area with low light pollution, even better.
Most of all be patient, meteors don’t run on a schedule. Sit back and enjoy the shower.