Starwatch: the Lyrids put on their annual show

Stuart Clark

Starwatch chart 22 April 2019 Lyrid meteor shower

The Lyrid meteor shower reaches its peak on the night of 22 April. The chart shows the view looking east at midnight. This is the oldest recorded meteor shower, with records that describe it dating back more than 2,500 years to ancient China. The meteors, also known as shooting stars, will radiate from a point in the constellation of Lyra, the Lyre. To see them, don’t concentrate directly on the radiant, be aware of the sky around it, which is where the bright streaks will appear.

Related: Catch a falling star: the Lyrid meteor shower - in pictures

The Lyrids are not the most numerous meteors, only about 10-20 meteors at most will be visible every hour, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality; the Lyrids are known for being bright and fast. Unfortunately, viewing conditions are not the best this year. A waning gibbous moon will rise around midnight, brightening the sky. This will wash out the fainter meteors. The meteors themselves are particles of dust from the tail of comet Thatcher that become visible as they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Occasionally, the Lyrids can “storm”. In those cases, the number of meteors rises dramatically to 100 per hour. No one can predict when these intense bouts will take place.