The Lyrid meteor shower, which occurs when the Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Thatcher, will be visible in the night sky tonight, 21/22 April 2016. However, this year’s shower coincides with a full moon, which will dampen the show a bit. If there are no clouds in the sky and you are not in an area with lots of lights, there is a good chance you may see some meteors.
Astronomers say the best time to see the Lyrid meteors is during the dark hours before dawn on 22 April. You might see from about ten to twenty Lyrid meteors per hour during the shower’s peak. However, with the full moon in the sky, you will see far fewer. Do not be surprised if you don’t see any!
Over the past few days, online social networking services have been buzzing with postings about the Lyrid meteor shower and some spectacular photographs. (Image: twitter.com/PaulRogers)
How to see the Lyrid meteors
To see the Lyrid meteor shower, also called the April Lyrids, you do not need any special equipment, not even binoculars. In fact, there is a better chance of seeing one with the naked eye, because they flash across the sky at very high speed – binoculars have a narrower field of vision.
Some of the meteors may leave an ionized gas trail behind them, known as a ‘persistent train’. According to earthsky.org, about one quarter of Lyrid meteors leave persistent trains. Look out for them – they will help you detect a meteor.
Try to go somewhere with as little street or home/building lighting as possible – what amateur (and professional) astronomers refer to as ‘light pollution’.
If you live in the countryside you should have no problem. If you are a city dweller, try to find an isolated area, such as a park (make sure it is safe).
Lyrid #MeteorShower peaks on April 22-23. The Full Moon on the 21st will make it hard to observe. 10-20/hr at peak. pic.twitter.com/CPOpZyjXZF
— York Observatory (@yorkobservatory) 20 April 2016
When you come into a dark area from a light one, it can take a few minutes for your eyes to adjust, after which the meteors will be more visible.
Prepare yourself for spending your early morning hours out in the cold with no success. It is common to see no Lyrid meteors when the shower coincides with a full moon. However, if you are patient, observant, and it is a clear night, you should see at least one.
BBC weather made the following forecast for this evening and the early hours of tomorrow morning:
“Clear spells for many overnight with isolated showers in the far northeast. Chilly too, with frost forming in rural parts of the north. Across the far south it will be cloudier, with outbreaks of rain spreading into the southwest.”
Video – Lyrid meteor shower April 2014
In this video, you can see some spectacular images of Lyrid meteors burning up in the atmosphere.