Lyrid Meteor Shower : 21st - 22nd April

A meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris trail left by a passing comet. In the case of the Lyrid meteor shower, the culprit is an object called C/1861 G1 Thatcher; a periodic comet discovered in 1861 that returns to the inner Solar System every 415 years. Meteor showers provide us with a better chance of seeing a meteor or 'shooting star' - small pieces of rock or dust that enter and burn up in the atmosphere, creating bright fiery trails across the night sky.

Stellarium Screenshot
Image of the night sky at midnight on the evening of the 21st April - radiant is circled.
Credit: Stellarium

Meteors from the Lyrid shower will streak across the sky (in any direction) from a point known as the radiant (see above), which is in the constellation of Lyra - hence the name of the meteor shower. The number of meteors will peak on the evening of the 21st April, when we can expect to see around 20-40 meteors per hour. This is a significant increase on the usual 5 or 6 per hour we can expect on a typical night.

As this meteor shower coincides with the dark nights of a new moon, the conditions (weather permitting) should be ideal for Lyrid spotting. You don't even need a telescope or binoculars - just warm clothing, a hot drink and a comfy chair. The best plan would be to look just to the left of the constellation of Lyra, which can be found high above the Eastern horizon (and a little bit North) around 10pm (21st April) to 2am (22nd April). Be aware that the meteors will only last a fraction of a second, so you have to concentrate.... blink and you'll miss them.