Meteor showers are the best time to look at the night skies in search of ‘shooting stars’.  Meteors are particles of dust and other space particles that hit the earth’s atmosphere and burn up, causing a stream of light that we can see passing through the atmosphere until it winks out as all the dust is burnt.  These particles are correctly termed meteoroids and micrometeoroids, and most of the ones we see are about the size of a grain of sand.

L2015In April, from 16th to 26th each year, the Earth passes through the trail of the Comet Thatcher, and this trail is full of dust – hence we get lots of meteors during the period – with some showers it can be as many as one a minute, but the Lyrids peak at about one every 5 minutes.  The concentration of meteors makes it a meteor shower because it seems to come from one place in the sky – in this case near the constellation Lyra, which is why they are called the Lyrids.

So, here we are on the 14th – and the Lyrids will start Thursday night, peaking next Wednesday 22nd and it’ll be all over the following weekend.  You may see a meteor any day, but it’s all a matter of luck, looking in the right place at the right time.

Recipe for successful Lyrid-watching:

  • Find a nice spot with good all-round visibility, but especially in the direction of the constellation Lyra (north-east ish – you need to check a star map for that) and as little light pollution as you can.
  • Select a chair you can lie back in and watch the skies. A deck chair or hammock is ideal, I use a sunbed.
  • Choose a clear night, or one with very little cloud.
  • If you want to make a night of it, make a thermos of hot drink or something similar, and wrap up in blankets or a sleeping bag.  Remember that Lyra moves just like the moon does!
  • If you have a Lyrid party, make sure everyone respects the need to keep your night vision, keep flashlights pointing down or off.
  • Wrap up warm and settle yourself in your chair looking in the right direction
  • You don’t need binoculars or a telescope – these babies move too fast.
  • You could try getting pictures – especially if you have a tripod and can set the camera to take long exposures.
  • Enjoy the natural phenomenon of the Lyrids!

Picture credits: Bruce McClure and Joni Hall

Want to know when to watch meteor showers?  Check out the EarthSky meteor shower guide.


Lyrid meteor shower
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17 thoughts on “Lyrid meteor shower

  • 14 April, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I love watching the night sky! The best place for us to see activity is while in them Smoky Mountains. If we go this weekend and if we’re there late, then I’ll definitely keep my eyes wide open for shooting stars. Of course, I was terribly surprised at how well we could see the stars above Knoxville, TN this past Saturday night ~ beautifully clear and the city lights didn’t seem to wash out the distant glow. Thanks for the heads up!

    • 14 April, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      You’re welcome, Cathy. I visited Knoxville many years ago – you should get a great view in the Smokies 🙂

  • 14 April, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Fascinating! We will be home by the time these showers peak, and since we are in a rural area we get a nice, dark night sky…so I will take a look.

    • 14 April, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Have fun, Nadine!

    • 14 April, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      I know what you mean 🙂 It’s more fun in company…

  • 14 April, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I love stars… and with an iPad you can get it to tell you what you are looking at! But sadly, in our garden, or indeed anywhere in our village, north east is towards the city of Bristol and the light pollution spoils the views of stars. Above and south it’s wonderfully dark… Liz

    • 14 April, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      I’ve heard that iPad app is really good!

  • 14 April, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Dang, we just spent the last week where there was great star-watching, though a bit chilly and windy to sit out. Now we’re home where we seldom can see the night sky.

    • 14 April, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Any excuse to go hiking again. Check the meteor calendar when planning your next trip 🙂

      • 15 April, 2015 at 2:25 pm

        Sadly, spring break comes when it comes, or we’d have been off a month earlier while there were still flowers in the desert! Retirement in just over 3years, DV.

  • 15 April, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for this, Jemima. I’ll head out the next nice night with a lounge chair!

    • 15 April, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Hope you see some!

  • 15 April, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Jemima, what an amazing blog you have. I love the information you share with us.

    • 15 April, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      I’m beginning to think I should stop writing most of my blog features and stick to science stuff!

      • 17 April, 2015 at 4:59 am

        Just don’t quit writing the stories!

  • 17 May, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Jemima … Lyrid Meteor Shower – I had no idea about … fascinating … and I didn’t know about the Star App .. so will look that up … cheers Hilary

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