It’s Lyrid season! One of the oldest recorded meteor showers will streak across night skies this month peaking on April 22 (but it could be outshone by the moon)
- The Lyrid meteor shower comes to skies in the Northern Hemisphere this month
- Experts say the peak will be between April 22-23 at the hours before dusk
- While a bright moon may dull the shower, it will likely still be visible
The Lyrid meteor shower is returning for its annual dance across night skies, and despite a brighter-than-usual moon, stargazers can still follow a few steps to make sure they get the best glimpse.
According to NASA, the peak of the annual meteor shower will be on April 22-23 which coincides with a bright waning gibbous moon — a phase that comes very close to being a full moon.
That means, with added moonlight, the spectacle will likely be hard to observe outside of the brightest meteors, according to experts.
That doesn’t mean the shower is a lost cause, however.
The Lyrid may not be the brighest of meteor showers, but it is one of the oldest observed.
This year, researchers at the Giant Magellan Telescope have released a handy infographic that should help astronomers put themselves in the best position for viewing.
One thing hopeful viewers of the shower can do, according to experts, is make sure they’re viewing at the right time.
According to astronomers at Magellan, optimal viewing happens in the few hours before dawn no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere where the shower will be visible.
While telescopes would enhance the fidelity for viewers, the meteors can usually be seen with the naked eye.
Experts say the bright moon could dull the Lyrid’s shine, but observers will still be able to view it. It might help to use a telescope to see more clearly, but they can be seen with the naked eye
To locate where the meteors will be passing through, viewers can use the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra to find what astronomers call the ‘radiant’
To locate where the meteors will be passing through, viewers can use the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra to find what astronomers call the ‘radiant.’
This is the point in the sky from which the meteors become visible to us on Earth. In some cases, meteors have been observed passing through the sky at a rate of 100 every hour.
On average the meteors come by at about 15 to 20 per hour.
Lyrid meteors are created by the the comet Thatcher. Every year, the Earth intersects with Thatcher’s dusty tail and particles of the comet are seen streaking through the sky where the usually burn up. Specks of meteor travel at about 110,000 mph.
Though the Lyrid aren’t the brightest shower observed by humans — the Perseuds and Geminids both outshine them — it is one of the oldest.
Particles from the comet, Thatcher, create the dust that we see enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
For the past 2,700 years, astronomers have monitored the Lyrids with the first ever recorded viewing coming from ancient China in 687 BC.
Unfortunately for first-time viewers of the Lyrid, the comet Thatcher from which the showers are derived made its rare appearance to observers last year and won’t be coming back for viewing any time soon.
The next year that Earthlings can observe Thatcher will be in 2276 as the Comet comes with a 415-year orbital period.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPACE ROCKS?
An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.
If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.