Australian stargazers should be up early on Friday morning to get a brief look at one of the significant astronomy events of the year. The Lyrid meteor shower isn’t pretty much as active as some of the bigger sky-viewing opportunities, for example, the Geminid meteor shower in December or the Perseids meteor shower in August, however, it’s as yet worth a look.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower, which is usually active between April 16 and 25 every year, is set to peak all through Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning.
Stargazers adequately sharp to keep awake into the early hours may be rewarded with meteor showers in the coming nights.
Albeit generally noticeable in the northern hemisphere, Australian spectators are often fortunate enough to see the Lyrid showers in late April.
The Lyrids generally produce a peak of about 10 to 20 meteors per hour in the night sky, as per NASA.
They are known for being bright and fast-moving, some leaving trails across the sky.
The day before and the day after the peak will present 5 to 10 meteors each hour.
If you time it right, you’ll have the option to see a meteor fly past every few minutes.
“At the peak, you may see up to 18 an hour, although they are considered to be an erratic meteor shower so you may see more or less,” Astronomy Australia’s Romy Pearse told.
“The peak time of the shower will likely only last an hour or so.”
Above all else, meteor showers are seen when the Earth passes through dust clouds left by comets.
A rock floating in space is an asteroid. While it is zooming through our atmosphere it is known as a meteor. When it hits the ground, we call it a meteorite.
What is the Lyrid meteor shower?
“The Lyrids are a Northern Hemisphere meteor shower, that can also be seen from the Southern Hemisphere between the 14th and 30th of April,” Pearse said.
The shower happens this time every year when Earth’s orbit crosses paths with that of Comet Thatcher.
The comet loses pieces of itself that go flying into our upper atmosphere at 177,000 miles each hour (284,806km/h).
Lyrid gets its name from the Lyra constellation. The Lyrid shower is one of the oldest known, with records of visible meteors returning 2700 years, as per EarthSky.
The space debris that interacts with our atmosphere to make bright streaks of light in the night sky comes from the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was first found in 1861.
A study of the orbits of Lyrid meteors recommends the shower may have been active for at least a million years.
So, how can I see them?
Essentially, gaze toward the sky from about midnight through the pre-dawn hours. This year the shower is expected to peak around April 22.
Cosmologists suggest giving your eyes around 30 minutes to adjust to the night sky (it very well may be intense, yet remember not to look at your phone at this time).
It is best to get to someplace with wide-open spaces, away from artificial city lights.
Ideally, the night sky is clear where you are in case you’re looking for the comets.
Clear nights are expected in Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth until at least Sunday, as per the Bureau of Meteorology. Showers are expected in Melbourne until Sunday.
Where can you see the meteor shower tonight?
Those in the northern end of Australia will have a superior possibility of spotting the sparkling event.
“As a result of the Lyrids being a Northern Hemisphere shower, you will likely get a better view of them from Brisbane than you will from Melbourne, as the radiant (the patch of sky the meteors appear from) will be located higher in the sky the further north you go,” Pearse said.
“Objects are always best viewed when they are higher in the night sky, due to possible obstructions like trees or buildings getting in the way closer to the horizon, plus the atmosphere is much clearer when looking straight up versus looking through a whole lot of atmosphere when you are searching in the sky closer to the horizon.
“If people can get to a dark-sky location, away from city lights, they will have an even better chance of spotting them.”
What time is the meteor shower around night time?
The best viewing of the Lyrid meteor shower will be at 12 am (midnight) on Friday, April 23, until the sun rises.
How to watch the meteor shower
If you live in a metropolitan territory, you might want to drive to a spot that isn’t littered with city lights that will block your view.
Find an open area with a wide view of the sky.
Ensure you have a chair or blanket so you can look directly up.
Also, give your eyes around 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness – without looking at your phone – so meteors are simpler to spot.
“When trying to spot them in the northern sky, it is best to look for the prominent star Vega, which is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra,” Pearse said.
“It is from this constellation that the Lyrids take their name, as the radiant appears in part of the night sky that is close to Vega.
“The moon might be a problem for those trying to view the Lyrids around midnight, but viewing will get much better toward the early hours of the morning as the moon will have set and the radiant will be higher in the sky.”