One of the oldest-known meteor showers will be lighting up our night skies for the next few weeks.
The Lyrid meteor shower will peak on April 22, but meteors will be visible from as early as this week.
Stargazers are in for a real treat. Peak meteor activity is generally about 20 meteors per hour, but the Lyrid is known for bursts that are well above that amount. Each streak will be visible for several seconds, as meteors skim the Earth’s atmosphere and leave trails of dust behind them.
The Lyrid was first recorded by stargazers in China in 687BC, making it one of the oldest known meteor showers. But the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, the remnants of which make up this meteor shower, was only discovered in 1861.
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“You can tell if a meteor belongs to a particular shower by tracing back its path to see if it originates near a specific point in the sky, called the radiant,” NASA advises.
The Lyrid meteor shower is named after the constellation Lyra, which is where the meteor shower appears to originate from in the sky.
The best way to spot it is by looking for Vega, the brightest star in the Lyra constellation and the fifth-brightest star in the night sky.
The good news is that no special equipment is needed for viewing the Lyrid, NASA says.
“Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Lie down comfortably on a blanket or lawn chair, and look straight up.”
Because the Lyra constellation is close to the horizon, the best viewing times for Australia are after midnight.