How an When to See the Lyrid Meteor Shower in April
Last Updated August 28, 2019 by Tim Trott. First Published in 2009.
The annual Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks around April 22nd with a display of 10 to 20 meteors per hour over the Northern hemisphere.
Earth is about to enter a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Expect between 5 to 20 meteors per hour around the peak dates.
The annual Lyrids are a medium strength shower that typically range from 5 to 20 meteors per hour around the peak dates. These meteors are best seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant is high in the sky at dawn. Activity from this shower can be seen from the southern hemisphere, but at a lower rate.
Forecasters expect the shower to peak on April 22nd, with a display of 10 to 20 meteors per hour over the Northern hemisphere. Occasionally, Earth passes through a dense region of the comet's tail and rates surge five- to ten-fold. In 1982, for instance, observers were surprised by an outburst of 90 Lyrids per hour. Because Thatcher's tail has never been mapped in detail, the outbursts are unpredictable and could happen again at any time.
The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours before dawn on the morning of April 22nd.
How to Watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are really easy to view, and you don't need any special equipment. It helps to get out of cities away from artificial lights and light pollution. Take warm clothes, hot drinks and blanket or a comfortable chair with you. Viewing meteors, just like all astronomy, is a waiting game and you need to be comfortable, especially during the winter months. Finally, you need to let your eyes adapt to the dark - avoid looking at your mobile phone or any other light as they will hinder night vision.
Meteors will always travel away from the constellation for which the shower is named. This apparent point of origin is called the radiant. For example, if you look directly at Gemini you will see geminid meteors radiate out from the constellation. Lying down and observing overhead can be the best way to observe meteor showers.
The only thing you will need is a clear and comfortable dark spot. You won't have to use binoculars or a telescope to enjoy the night's sky.
The showers will appear in the sky like shooting stars so be sure to make a wish as they pass you by.
Photographing Meteor Showers
To capture great meteor shower photos you need to get away from city lights and find a location with dark skies. Opt for a location with good all round sky visibility, but also something interesting in the foreground - a tree, rock formation, river - these all work well to create an interesting scene.
For photographing meteor showers, a digital camera mounted on a tripod is essential to steady the images. Use the widest angle lens you have to capture as much of the sky as possible and be sure to have the camera lens focused on infinity.
Meteors will move swiftly across the sky so clicking the shutter when you see a meteor won't capture anything. Using the camera's self-timer set to continuous can be the best bet. This will continuously take shots until you stop it, maximising the chances of a strike.
You can experiment with shutter settings prior to the shower starting to find the exposure for your ambient lighting. You want the foreground to be illuminated enough to see it without any skyglow being too bright. As a starting point set the camera to ISO800, lowest aperture number (f/2-3 is best) and a 10 second exposure. See what the results look like and adjust from there.
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