The first big meteor shower of 2021 has arrived, which is great news for all amateur astronomers. The Lyrid meteor shower is a cosmic phenomena that will fire light streaks through the night sky in mid-April.
Even if it isn’t the most powerful shower of the year, you can expect to see 18 swift and vivid meteors every hour at its highest. The glow from a near-full moon (known as a gibbous moon) can, however, make the meteors more difficult to see than normal.
The Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest on record; Chinese astronomers observed “stars falling like rain in the middle of the night” in 687 B.C. Every year in April, we see this meteor as we fly through the dust trail left by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which orbits the sun every 415 years.
What are The Lyrids?
The Lyrids are a medium-sized shower in terms of meteors, but they’re notorious for creating a lot of fireballs, which are vivid shooting stars that leave a long-lasting streak through the sky.
Outpourings of 100 meteors every hour have been reported in the Lyrids, with heavier streaks occurring in Greece in 1922, Japan in 1945, and the United States in 1982. An outburst isn’t expected until 2021, but that doesn’t rule it out.
What’s gonna happen?
As the Earth merges with the orbit of the comet, vaporizing matter slams into our atmosphere at a speed of around 110,000 miles per hour. The meteors are classified as medium-speed.
A persistent train — an ionized gas track that lights up for a few seconds after the meteor has passed — is left by around 25% of Lyrid meteors. Although the shooting stars are known for their speed and brightness, they pale in comparison to the spectacular Perseids shower in August.
The shower has a peak of around 10-20 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere within normal circumstances. The intensity is much lower in the southern hemisphere, at 1-2 per hour.
When and where can you catch a glimpse of the Lyrids?
As per EarthSky, the Lyrids meteor shower will intensify in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 22, and continue through the morning of April 23. The best time to see the meteor shower, independently of where you are on the planet, is between midnight and dawn.
The shower begins when the radiant rises in the sky, and it is usually at its peak when the radiant is at its highest point. Vega rises in the northeast between 9 to 10 p.m. local time during the shower’s height, and is at its maximum just before dawn.