It’s that time of the year again! Get ready to see spectacular meteor showers. Lighting up the sky in April is the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which is expected to be remarkable this year. Meteor showers are commonly referred to as shooting stars.
What is a Lyrid meteor shower:
The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest known meteor showers dating back 2700 years; the first recorded sighting goes back to 687 BC by the Chinese. The Lyrid meteors are pieces of rock and dust of Comet Thatcher(C/1861 G1). Every year, the Earth will pass through this cloud of debris left in the comet’s orbit (Yes, Comets, like Earth, orbits around the sun, albeit a highly elliptical one!). The meteors burn as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere creating the bright streaks in the sky we call a meteor shower. At its most spectacular (a meteor outburst) the Lyrids are known to surge up to 60 – 100 meteors per hour.
Can we see Lyrid meteor shower:
The Lyrids leave glowing trains of ionised gas (these are observable for several seconds) behind them as they burn through the Earth’s atmosphere. This year, at its peak, you could observe 10 to 15 meteors per hour. The night sky, this year will not be moonless since the moon is moving towards its full-moon phase and hence making it more difficult to watch the showers.
When to watch for Lyrid meteor shower:
The annual Lyrid meteor shower is expected to be active from about April 16 to 25.
The shower is likely to pick up late at night Monday, April 19, 2021.
Those who want to catch a glimpse of this celestial phenomenon should get outside during predawn hours on Thursday, April 22, 2021 when the shower is expected to peak. You might be able to catch it on the morning of April 23 as well.
How to see the Lyrid meteor shower:
Required Conditions: Clear Sky away from city lights — Check clear sky (cloud) conditions in your area – here.
Good news for Canadians. Being in the Northern Hemisphere, the Canadians get to enjoy the full effect of this spectacular show (Those in the Southern Hemisphere may observe fewer meteors).
The Lyrid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra the Harp, near the star Vega (one of the brightest stars in the night sky) in the Northeast at around 10 p.m. Though, you will be able to view it from any direction, it is advised that you lie down with your feet facing east to get a more spectacular perspective of the long meteor tails.
The Moon: This year the full moon is on April 26th and on April 22nd, the moon is around 68% full. So the best times to watch will be between moonset and dawn.
Since we are in the pandemic, those who are lucky enough to live far away from city lights can just look up at the sky between moonset and dawn. You may lie down or sit on a lawn chair and look straight up. Let your eyes get adapted to the dark.
Reasonably Dark Areas Near Your Home:
To find reasonably dark areas near your location, check the darkskyfinder map. Search for a park (or a safe place with no streetlights away from roads/traffic) within the areas coloured dark (mustard) yellow, green, blue, grey or black (transparent). (Before travelling, please check cloud cover.)
Things to note:
— Make sure you switch off the phone and your eyes need ~ 30 minutes to get adjusted to the dark. If you are carrying a flashlight, cover it with red cellophane wrap or some kind of red filter, so that it doesn’t interfere with viewing.
— Watch the night sky for at least 15 to 20 minutes for a chance to spot meteors. At its best, the shower can produce more than 80 meteors per hour. You can see the shower with naked eyes and do not need astronomy equipment.
— Take a blanket or a lawn chair so that you can sit comfortably to watch the shower.