What is the Lyrid meteor shower?
- As the comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) orbits the sun, it leaves a trail of debris which the Earth crashes into every April. When the debris burns up in our atmosphere, it produces the meteor shower that we call the Lyrids.
- At its peak, the Lyrids can produce 18 meteors per hour. They’re usually bright with long trails and there’s also a good chance of seeing one that becomes a fireball.
When is the best time to see the Lyrid meteor shower in 2022?
- The best time to see the Lyrids in 2022 is early on Saturday 23rd April (before dawn).
- Unfortunately, there’s also a full moon this year at around the same time, so viewing conditions will be poor. Dark, clear skies are always best for seeing meteors.
- However, the Lyrids will start appearing from 14th April, so keep your eyes peeled. The number of meteors will increase steadily each night until their peak on 22-23rd April and then drop off rapidly before finishing completely by 30th April.
How can I see the Lyrid meteor shower from the UK?
- You don’t need any special equipment to see the Lyrid meteor shower from the UK but a bit of preparation is a good idea.
- First, check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be cloudy, then try the days before the peak viewing period.
- Next, find a dark (but safe!) place with a clear view away from buildings, trees, and street lights. The Lyrids can appear in any part of the sky, so the more you can see the better.
- Also, make sure you turn off all torches and phones for 15 minutes so that your eyes can adjust to the darkness. If you need to use a torch, then consider buying one with a red filter.
- Finally, make sure that you’re warm and comfortable. The Lyrids can be viewed for many hours, so a reclining chair and refreshing beverages are an excellent idea.
If you are planning to take pictures of meteors, Mary McIntyre has some very useful tips for you on how to take better meteor pictures.
Another great way to watch the Lyrids is to buy or build yourself a meteor camera. You’ll be able to create amazing time lapse videos like the one below and join the UK network of 153 meteor cameras. You don’t need any previous experience and it’s a great project to do with your kids or students!
Fun facts about the Lyrid meteor shower
- They’re called the Lyrids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Lyra. However, they’re actually caused by the Earth crashing into debris left behind by the comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher).
- The Lyrids are the oldest recorded meteor shower still visible today and were first recorded in 687 BC by Chinese astronomers.
- In the Australian Aboriginal astronomy of the Boorong tribe, the Lyrids represent the scratchings of the Mallee fowl (represented by Vega), coinciding with its nest-building season.
- The average speed for a Lyrid meteor is 30 miles per second (that’s 108,000 miles per hour!). The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail but larger meteors can explode as fireballs