The Lyrid meteor shower marks the first significant meteor shower in more than three months. It will be visible from Sunday evening, 21 April, and will peak between 2:00 and 3:00 on Tuesday, 23 April.
According to the Bronberg Weather Station in Pretoria, viewing the meteor shower is as simple as going outside, finding a dark spot and looking north-north-east towards the Lyra constellation.
What is the Lyrids Meteor Shower?
In a nutshell, the Lyrids are leftovers from Comet Thatcher. Lyrids meteor streams are groups of meteoroids originating from dust grains ejected from Comet Thatcher (real name: Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.)
The meteoroids (small dust grains) are distributed around the comet’s orbit. We get to see the meteors every time Earth passes through that stream of dust particles, or the debris left behind by the comet.
These pieces enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, creating the meteor shower, or shooting stars, as we often refer to them. The Lyrid meteor shower is known for its bright fireballs.
Comet Thatcher is one of the eight greatest comets of the 19th century, but don’t get too excited about seeing Thatcher again anytime soon. The last perihelion – when it was visible from Earth – was on May 13 1861. Then next perihelion will be in 2265.
When is the best time to view the Lyrid meteor shower
Between 2:00 and dawn would be the best time to view. On a clear night, you can expect to see 18 streaks an hour, but perhaps even more during the peak times. Keep looking north!
Folks in the Northern Hemisphere will be in the good seats for this one, but we will still be able to see some of the action too. The visibility of the meteor shower also depends on the weather and light pollution.
The best way to view the Lyrids meteor shower
Getting away from the city and light pollution would be a start. If you have a telescope, by all means, crack it out, but the meteor shower will be visible to the naked eye.
Find a comfortable spot and lay down or sit with their head tilted back, looking north and upward while taking in as much as they sky possible.
You’ll need to locate the Puppids constellation. It is situated in the same vicinity as the Pictor, Dorado and Canna constellations.
But don’t look directly at the Lyra constellation, as it would make the meteors appear to have short tails. Instead, look at the sky as a while, and the meteors will be more likely to appear with a long tail.
April Full moon – Pink Moon
Take note that this year’s Lyrids peak will coincide with the April Full Moon, unfortunately making the shower more challenging to view.
Not only will the moon be full and bright, but it will also be close to the radiant – the area of the sky where the meteors appear.
If all else fails, tune into the live stream below to see the pretty shooting stars.