Lyrids Meteor Shower 2011 April 17 to April 26 – No telescope required.
The Lyrid meteor shower 2011 promises to be a meteor shower well worth watching, for astronomy enthusiasts and casual viewers alike.
During the period April 17 to April 26 2011, Earth will pass through the trail of debris left in space by the comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher). As the debris and dust particles are burned up in Earth’s atmosphere, so viewers on the ground see the Lyrids meteors or shooting stars. This has become known as the Lyrids meteor shower or Lyrid meteor shower.
The Lyrids meteor shower is so named, because to it’s viewers, the meteors appear to emanate from the constellation Lyra. The best way of describing this phenomenon is to consider the Earth as a car driving through snow fall (the debris field left in space by the comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher)). Even though the snow is not actually driving toward the car, but rather it is generally simply falling from the sky, to the driver and passengers looking out of the front window of the car, the snow all appears to be emanating from one direction.
The Lyrids meteor shower 2011 will be best viewed at their peak, which this year has been calculated as 22 April around 2100 hrs UK time, although it is likely that meteors will be able to be seen on any of the nights from 17 April to 26 April.
The Lyrids shower typically produces around 20 meteors per hour, but has been known to produce anywhere from 20 to 90 meteors or shooting stars per hour at its peak, and on occasional years has been known to produce significantly more than that, producing spectacular displays. Due to the nature of the dust and debris that makes up their trail in space, they can often be seen as bright fireballs that last for several seconds in the night sky.
To view meteor showers effectively, it is best to be well away from cities or towns, somewhere where background light polution from streetlights, house lights and cars is at a minimum. The darker the sky the better. It may also be beneficial to take a garden lounger, or something similar, to aid relaxed viewing, as prolonged ‘craning’ of the neck can lead to discomfort. It is also advisable to wrap up warm, and to take something warm to drink if you intend staying out for a reasonable period to watch.
It should be noted that this year, the fainter meteors will be more difficult to see in the night sky due to the presence of the light from a Gibbous Moon on the peak night.