Saturday, 18 April 2015

Lyrid Meteor Shower - Visible in the night sky now!

Next week the night sky will be graced with one of the most impressive meteor showers of the year, the Lyrids, which will be visible for all of next week, peaking on the 22nd and 23rd of April.

A Lyrid Meteor visible passing across the Milky Way (Credit: NASA)

Meteor showers are caused by lots of tiny particles colliding with the Earth's atmosphere, being heated up and briefly glowing brightly as they burn up. The Lyrid Meteors are caused by particles shed from a comet called C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered by A.E. Thatcher in 1861. While the comet itself has been known about for over 150 years, the Lyrids were first seen over 2,600 years ago, making them the oldest known meteor shower.

This year's Lyrid meteor shower promises to be a wonderful sight, not only because astronomers are expecting 10-20 meteors visible per hour, but also because the Moon will be a slender crescent on the 22nd and 23rd of April, making it much easier to observe the meteors.

The meteor shower should be visible (weather permitting!) from the entire Northern hemisphere, as well as much of the Southern hemisphere. While the meteors will emanate from the constellation of Lyra (hence the name Lyrids), they will pass across the entire sky, so wherever you look you should be able to see them. You don't even need a telescope, just get away from the bright city lights and look up!

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