Although not the strongest annual meteor showers, the April Lyrids are still considered one of the major meteor showers of the year. Usually rates do
not exceed 10-30 per hour at peak, but there have been outbursts in the past and rates have even exceeded 100 per hour on occasion.
Lyrids are bright streaks we see in the sky when dust/and some larger meteoroids ejected by Comet Thatcher enter our atmosphere at extremely high
velocity. At such high velocities, the meteoroid slams into air molecules in the upper atmosphere, ionizing them and causing them to emit light at
very specific frequencies that can be used to identify the gases/elements involved via
In this case, Lyrid meteors enter our atmosphere at a velocity of 49 km/s, which is a bit faster than the average meteor, but not as fast as the
faster meteors eg Leonids (71 km/s) and Perseids (64 km/s). If you see a meteor, you can tell if it's a Lyrid or not by mentally tracing the path
that it took, and extending it backwards. If you arrive at the constellation Lyra then theres a very good chance that it was a Lyrid meteor.
See this link for some charts.
This year the Lyrid meteor shower is expected to peak around April 22 at 11h UT (UT=GMT), but that is just a best guess, and the best rates may be
seen some hours before or after. The Lyrids are the oldest known meteor shower, having been identified
as far back as 2600 years, and this probably explains the general patchiness of rates from year to year.
If you have a video camera or still camera, try to capture some. Fast wide-normal lenses and high ISOs work best. Focus on infinity (the Moon for
example, or in this case, it's probably best to pre-focus in daylight using a distant object/landscape feature in the case of still cameras
especially) and aim ~45 degrees away from Lyra. See the links below for further details, and feel free to U2U me if you have any questions.
This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:
1: It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when
facing directly upwards.
2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple layers of warm
cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time. If you are too warm (unlikely in most cases) then you can
always remove a layer of cloths or two.
3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on
your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which
you should be if you want to catch any meteors), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10 seconds. See links below for more info.
Just to add a little to what I said, Lyrid meteors can be seen as soon as the light starts to fade. At this time they will be few and far between, but
if you are lucky you might catch a rare Lyrid earthgrazer, which appear to fly
upwards and away from the horizon or fly close to/parallel with it, since Lyra, where the Lyrid
radiant lies, is close to the horizon at this time, and meteors always travel directly
away from the radiant.
You'll probably have a better chance of seeing earthgrazers during showers like the Perseids, Leonids, or Geminids this year, since those showers are
likely to be stronger than the Lyrids, but there are no guarantees in this game, and there is always a chance that the Lyrids could spring a surprise
Later on, as Earth rotates, and Lyra/the radiant climbs higher in the sky, rates usually increase right the way through till it starts to
become light, at which time rates will usually start to fall since it becomes harder to see meteors against an ever brightening background of blue
With a relatively unpredictable shower like the Lyrids, be prepared for some long gaps between meteors, especially early on when the radiant is low.
Low activity at the start of an observing session could easy turn into high activity later on (or it might not!), so don't give up just because the
show does not start right away.
Good to hear you are making an effort to get away from the lights questioningall. It's worth doing if you can.
If the peak arrives at the predicted time, the best place to observe it from would probably be somewhere along the West Coast of the US. The trouble
with the Lyrids is, that because it's such an old shower, it's difficult to predict exact timings for it. The dust trails that were created as Comet
Thatcher orbited the Sun have become very defuse and spread out over time, and it becomes harder to predict where most of the meteoroids are most
concentrated when this happens. This is in contrast to younger showers like the Leonids, where we can usually predict peaks with great accuracy. In
this case, the predicted time should be taken as a "best guess".
So I have not specified an area where the highest rates can be observed from because of this. The actual peak could arrive any time in the hours
around the time listed, so it's best to observe the night that the predicted peak time is closest too( or falls on) to give yourself the best chance
of catching it, although there is no guarantee that you will.
For those who are in areas where the peak arrives in daylight (Western Europe for example), and the peak is in between nights, the preceding night is
probably your best bet to see something, since if there is a peak later on in the night the radiant will be high, and you'll see the best rates. The
next night is not quite as good a bet since the radiant will be low at the start of the night, and the later on you get, the further away from the
peak time you get, making it more of a long shot.
Basically, wherever you are, observe in your location (preferably away from light pollution), and hope that you get lucky. Late is good too, so unless
you want to look for earthgrazers (which is a long shot), the closer to the end of the night you observe, the more meteors you should see due to the
mblahnikluver, desert Good luck
Remember everyone, meteor showers are a lottery - sometimes you win, sometimes you loose (a real possibility with flaky showers like the Lyrids), but
if you don't buy a ticket, you will always loose.
Hopefully we will all get to see something this year, but do not be too disappointed if you don't see much. Sometimes you have to observe a few peaks
before you get a memorable night. Generally, unless you are clouded out, or live where there is allot of light pollution, you will see something.
If you are the kind of person that gets easily bored and might be put off by long waits between meteors, you might be better off observing a more
reliable/predictable shower. Perseids, Leonids and Geminids would fit the bill. This year should be a good year for these showers, especially the last
two, which are towards the end of the year.
I was out on the 21st and didn't see much (was preoccupied with the scope/computer), though I thought I spotted a short-lived fireball out of the
corner of my eye at one point. It didn't seem to move much so it must have been coming nearly directly at me.
I spent a few hours out taking sky quality readings here in the mid-west last night. I saw a few nice meteors but no fireballs. Unfortunately I had
forgotten about the shower until I was already on the road so i didn't plan ahead. I had a good sized town in between me and the origin. So alot of
the good ones were probably drowned out by sky glow.
Nope, nothing. But, love to look up none the less. Are the Perseids the ones in August? Usually those are a show. Years ago I was up in the Sierras
about 7000+ft in August, camping next to a big lake; the streaks reflected in the still water. Awesome.
Any chance to view a clear night sky is good. I love the look of precious gemstones. But the first time I saw the Pleiades through my telescope as a
kid, I knew that I could wear no earthly gems to equal the beauty of those heavenly jewels.
I hate the fact i moved from Outback Australia to Inner city Brussels, Belgium recently. It means all these showers i love become a non event, of
course in time i can find a nice little spot somewhere out of the way im sure, but i will miss being on the river watching the night sky.
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