Lyrids meteor shower 2024 - when and how to see shooting stars near you

Shooting stars streaking through the skies over London. Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image
The Lyrid meteor shower, an annual display caused by the Earth passing through a cloud of debris from a comet called C/186 Thatcher. Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image -Credit:Simon Robling/Getty Images

The Lyrids meteor shower is back for 2024 and there are key dates and times to get a glimpse of the cosmic display. The Lyrids were first recorded over China more than 2,700 years ago when it was written: "At midnight, stars fell like rain."

The meteors, named because they appear to come from the constellation Lyra, are said to be the most spectacular of the annual shooting stars. They come back each year as a comet's tail of debris sweeps past us.

The Lyrids meteor shower began on April 14 and will continue until April 30. The predicted peak of the meteors is quite narrow, between night-time on April 22 and sunrise on April 23. It's best to wait until after midnight on April 22 to try to get a glimpse.


What may make it tricky to spot the meteors whizzing through the sky is the bright moon. The meteors reach a peak when we are very close to the full moon, which is on April 24 in the UK, so it may be best to start looking for them a little earlier when conditions are more favourable because there is less moonlight.

Between five and 20 meteors appearing every hour are expected. In some years there are outbursts of Lyrids with around 100 an hour but this only happens every 60 years, with the next outburst due in 2042. In 1803, an American journalist described an incredibly intense outburst of 700 shooting stars an hour, resembling "a shower of sky rockets."

The meteors are particles of debris from Comet Thatcher, most no bigger than grains of sand. The comet is dragging a trail of dust behind it and this gets knocked out of place when it passes our planet, with particles then falling into Earth's atmosphere and burning up as streaks of light as they travel at 49 kilometres a second, or 110,000 miles an hour. Some are bright enough to be seen as Lyrid fireballs, with a smoky trail seen behind them for several minutes.

How to watch the Lyrids

Dress in warm clothes and head out to somewhere with no light pollution from city lights. Take a reclining deckchair or blanket so you can lie back and look up without straining your neck.

It's best to look towards the east - although the meteors could appear in any part of the sky, their trails will tend to point back toward the point where they originate.