The Lyrid meteor shower is here again: Earth is currently moving through a stream of space dust, resulting in many shooting stars at night and in the early morning.
I’m a big fan of meteor showers, I’ve gone outside for 5 of them since I’ve been in Newfoundland. Of those 5 nights only 1 was a complete success, the other shows were spoiled by fog and clouds, such is the fate of us Newfoundland stargazers. Still, even on those spoiled nights, I saw plenty of shooting stars.
I’m trying again with this year’s Lyrids, here are some tips:
- Best nights for viewing: from April 21 to 22 and from April 22 to 23.
- Best times for viewing: on both of those nights as late as possible, but before moonrise.
- Where to look: up! No particular direction, meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.
Let me elaborate on point 1. Under ideal circumstances both nights are good but of course we have the weather to contend with. Newfoundland has just been hit by a spring snowstorm which dumped 10cm of snow on our lawn and left the skies overcast. So, for me at least, the first night is not a good night. Tomorrow night, April 22 to 23, is looking much better in the forecast. I don’t want to jinx it but the Weather Network even says it’ll be a clear night!
This brings us to point 2, the best time to be outside. The Lyrids are flying all night long but typically you’ll see most of them when Vega is high in the sky, just before dawn. However, this year we’ve got a bright moon rising at 1:23 AM. The moon is very attractive but its brightness will hinder your sight, so even though there should be more meteors visible closer to dawn, you may actually see more of them before the moon shows up. If things do turn out clear I will not be stopped by the moon, some meteors are so bright you can see them even in the moon’s glare. If you stay outside too, just look away from the moon and your chances have immediately improved.
Point 3 is really not important, these meteors are so fast and unpredictable, they can appear anywhere in the sky. Some meteors are easier to spot because they’re so big and bright you can quickly turn your head when you see them in your peripheral vision. Some meteors even leave smoke trails in the sky which remain visible for a while, especially with binoculars.
A last and obvious tip: if you live in the city, try and get away from it as best you can, the darker the venue the better you’ll be able to see.
Update / April 23
Marije enjoyed the meteor shower from our driveway, I enjoyed it from the trail.