When to watch for the Lyrid meteor shower 2021
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
This time last year we had begun a three month lockdown period and it was amazing to see how many people discovered the night sky, writes Suffolk astronomer Neil Norman.
So much so in fact that telescope sales have absolutely gone through the roof, with many companies regularly running out of stock.
Fast forward a tough year and we are emerging from another lockdown this time though we have the opportunity to observe one of the best meteor showers together from our backyards.
The annual Lyrid meteor shower is active from April 16 to 25 with the night of greatest meteors being on the 22.
During the nights of the 16,17 and 18, the meteors will be few and far between.
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Activity will begin to pick up on the 19 and go through to the 23 so there is plenty of chances to see the shower even if the clouds prevent some nights.
The best time to observe the meteors is from midnight until dawn when you will be able to see up to 15 meteors an hour - that’s the good news, the bad news is that this year, the moon will be heading towards full phase which will mean the smaller, dimmer meteors will be lost in moonlight.
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The radiant, or point of the sky the meteors appear to originate from lies close to the prominent blue star Vega in the constellation of Lyra the Harp.
The meteors enter the atmosphere and burn up some 60 miles above our heads and are travelling at some 110,000 mph and around a quarter of the meteors leave a trail behind them, so these are very spectacular meteors compared to many other showers.
The parent of the Lyrids is a comet called C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) which last passed through the inner solar system in that year.
The comet is on a 415 year orbit around the sun and is next expected to return in the year 2276 AD.
This shower is also one of the oldest known having been recorded by the Chinese some 2,700 years ago.
They reported the meteors falling like rain in 687BC.
We can only dream of such a shower this time but whatever happens, try to get out and get looking up over the next few weeks.