Thursday night on Friday morning will be one of the special dates spanning the entire year when skywatchers can catch a meteor shower while a host of solar flares may erupt into the darkness.
Meteor showers occur when our planet encounters the debris field left behind by icy comets or rocky asteroids orbiting the sun. These tiny particles burn up in the atmosphere, leading to blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that a particular meteor shower occurs at about the same time each year.
One of the first major meteor showers of spring are the Lyrids. They have been active since April 15 and will go to the 29th, but they will peak from April 21 to 22, or Thursday evening and early Friday morning.
The meteors come from a comet called C/1861 G1, also known as Thatcher. It is a morning shower, best seen in the early hours before sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere, although some activity will be visible in the Southern Hemisphere.
It will peak when the moon is two-thirds full, which could limit visibility. If you don’t manage to get a good show overnight, the Lyrid rain is predicted to be much stronger in 2023, when the moon will be a small crescent, making up to 18 meteors visible per hour. to be.
And more meteor showers are coming. Visit The Times’ list of major showers expected in 2022, or sync our curated collection of major space and astronomy events to your personal digital calendar.
How to see a shower
The best practice is to go to the countryside and stay as far away from artificial light sources as possible. Rural people may have the luxury of just getting outside. But city dwellers also have options.
Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a special region of the dark sky. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they are,” said Robert Lunsford, the secretary general of the International Meteor Organization.
Meteor showers are usually best seen when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. To see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after arriving at your viewing location. This way your eyes can get used to the dark. Then sit back and enjoy much of the night sky. Clear nights, higher elevations, and times when the moon is slim or absent are best. Mr Lunsford suggested a good rule of thumb: “The more stars you can see, the more meteors you can see.”
Binoculars or telescopes are not necessary for meteor showers, and in fact limit your view.