April, every year, presents us with the Lyrid Meteor Shower. Earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Thatcher and as the dust passes into the atmosphere and burns up, shooting stars appear to light up the sky.
Last night, I walked out into the garden and took a seat, looked up into the clear sky and it seemed like the Earth was spinning faster. Four stars directly in front of me were cutting through the sky. It was so disorientating. I took the kids from their beds into the loft for a look through the skylight.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower
The Lyrid light show appears every April and promises a spectacular astrological event that can be seen with the naked eye.
Up to ten meteors an hour can be seen between Monday and the shower peaks early on Wednesday morning, April 22. The best chance of seeing the shooting stars being during the night on Tuesday and before dawn on Wednesday. You’ll also see them tonight as well.
One of the oldest recorded meteor showers
The Lyrids meteor shower is one of the oldest recorded. Chinese texts mention it from over 2500 years ago.
Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, shedding particles, leaves a trail in its wake. Earth passes through the trail every year, this is what causes the Lyrid meteor shower. The comet takes 415 years to orbit the sun, was last visible from Earth in 1861 and won’t be seen again until 2276.
Tiny dust particles in our solar system, appearing as bright meteors, offer a different view of the night sky.
They appear to be coming from the constellation Lyra, the harp, near the bright star Vega. Vega is the radiant point. However, it’s 25 light-years away and the Lyrid Shower particles burn out only 60 miles up in our atmosphere.
Meteoroids, meteors, meteorites and aeroplanes
A meteoroid, a space rock, hurtling through space becomes a meteor, or “shooting star”, when it enters Earth’s atmosphere. As it does, it stars burning brightly, hitting atmospheric gas at very high speed. We see a constant glow, much like a star, but moving across the sky. If it reaches the surface of Earth, we call it a meteorite.
Aeroplanes have flashing lights. They can look like meteors when far away because we can’t make out the flashing lights but when photographed over 15 or 20 seconds we see a series of dots.
Meteor shower outbursts
In 1982 there was an outburst in the Lyrid Shower, where 100 meteors per hour were seen. Outbursts were also recorded in 1945 in Japan and from Greece in 1922. It’s hard for astrologists to predict outbursts so you never know if one could appear this year. In 687 BC the ancient Chinese reported the shower, falling like rain.
For the first time, my children saw more than one meteor shooting through the sky at the same time. This may change their view of the sky forever. Maybe by seeing this spectacular event, they will become astrologers or avid astrophotographers like myself.
See past the Lyrid Meteor Shower
Either way, it’s worth a look over the next couple of nights. I believe events like this change our outlook on the world and life itself. We realise in this moment that we are but a speck in the universe, realise how fortunate we are to be human, we are offered an opportunity to embrace life and be happy.
The cloud put a dampener on things last year but the MET Office app advises us that the skies are clear all week so get out into the garden and have a look.
Send your photos in and the best one will be credited and go in the blog. If you have an SLR and not sure how to get the best out of it, check out the article below.
Take a look at my night photography blog now on Astrophotography – Camera setting for the stars.