Check out the Lyrid Meteor Shower over the next couple of weeks – Peak is on 22nd and the Moon is almost at new moon phase so won’t cause a problem on the 22nd. The picture shows early morning in Sydney and NSW – will be higher the further north you go and lower the further South – the best view will be around 5 am about an hour before sunrise when Lyra is highest in the North-Eastern sky.
The Lyrids are visible from April 16 through to April 30. The peak is due on April 22nd. They are a better Northern Hemisphere Shower but if you are prepared to get up nice and early you still have the chance to see some pretty cool meteors.
The Lyrids hold the record for the shower with the longest recorded history, having been observed since at least 687BC.
That longevity is linked to the orbit of the Lyrid’s parent comet, discovered in 1861 by A. E. Thatcher. Comet Thatcher moves on a highly inclined, eccentric orbit, swinging through the inner Solar system every 415 years or so. Its most recent approach to Earth was in 1861.
Compared with many other comets, Thatcher’s orbit is relatively stable, as the only planet with which it can experience close encounters is Earth. This means the meteors it sheds continue to follow roughly the same orbit.
Over the millennia, that shed debris has spread all around the comet’s vast orbit, meaning that for thousands of years, every time Earth intersects Comet Thatcher’s orbit, the Lyrids have been seen, as regular as clockwork.
One study of the orbits of Lyrid meteors even suggests the shower may have been active for at least a million years.
These days, the Lyrids are usually a moderately active shower, producing somewhere between 10 and 20 fast, bright meteors per hour at their peak. Occasionally, though, the Lyrids have thrown up a surprise, with rates climbing far higher for a period of several hours.
The best of those outbursts appear to occur every 60 years or so, with the most recent occurring in 1982 when observed rates reached or exceeded 90 per hour.
The image below is from the free software package Stellarium.