Lyrid display to delight skygazers with up to 18 meteors per hour
Skygazers can look forward to catching the Lyrid meteor shower on Thursday morning, with up to 18 meteors per hour expected to light up the dawn skies.
The celestial display is expected to peak at 1pm UK time on April 22, but astronomers say the best time to see it will be early morning or after sunset.
Tania de Sales Marques, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, told the PA news agency: “Since the peak occurs during the day the best time to try to spot the shower will be before sunrise on the 22nd or after sunset.
“It is expected that this meteor shower will produce around 18 meteors per hour.”
However, she added that the Moon will be at a waxing gibbous phase, meaning that it will be quite bright in the sky, “so conditions won’t be very favourable”.
Meteor showers, or shooting stars, are caused when pieces of debris, known as meteorites, enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of around 43 miles per second, burning up and causing streaks of light.
The Lyrids takes its name from the constellation of Lyra the Harp, where the shooting stars appear to originate from.
These meteors are pieces of debris falling from the Thatcher Comet, which is expected to return to the inner solar system in 2276, after an orbital period of 415 years.
Ms de Sales Marques told PA: “The Lyrids have been observed as far back as 687 BC, the oldest known record of any meteor showers still visible today.
“It is a moderate shower with the occasional fireballs, nicknamed the Lyrid Fireballs.”
Those waiting to catch a glimpse of the meteors will also be able to spot Vega, which is Lyra’s brightest star.
Ms de Sales Marques told PA: “Vega is one of the brightest stars in the sky and one of three stars that make up the Summer Triangle.
“This recognisable asterism will be easy to find in the pre-dawn sky.”
According to astronomers, the best way to see meteor showers is to be as far away from artificial lights as possible.
Ms de Sales Marques told PA: “It is worth mentioning that meteors will be visible all over the sky, not just in the direction of the radiant, so to maximise your chance of spotting meteors, try to find a safe place that has an unobstructed view of the whole sky.
“As with any stargazing, you’ll need to allow at least 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.”
The Lyrids occur between 16-25 April every year.