Tonight presents the expected peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, from late night Friday (April 22) until dawn Saturday (April 23). Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.
Lyrid meteors are usually around magnitude +2, which is bright enough to be visible from most cities, but you’ll see more and enjoy them more if you leave the city for a dark place where the stars shine brighter. They often produce luminous trains of dust that can be observed for several seconds. Some Lyrids will be brighter, though, and the occassional “fireball” can cast shadows for a split second and leave behind glowing, smoky debris trails that last for minutes. Lyrid meteors disintegrate after hitting our atmosphere at a moderate speed of 29.8 miles per second.
In observing these meteors, the hour before dawn is usually best, except that a bright waning gibbous moon will be lighting the sky hiding most of the fainter meteors in its glare. This year, it is more favorable to watch late at night, during the dark hour before moonrise.
Tweet your data!
You can also share your data by Tweeting your postcode, your country (click here to find your country code) and, optionally, the meteor count along with the hashtag; #MeteorWatch (you are welcome to use GAM hastags as well – #GAM2011 #LyridsWatch)
The meteor data will appear in a map at MeteorWatch.org
While the best meteor-watching will be late night through daybreak, it’s well worth staying outside just before sunrise for a beautiful planetary alignment will be joining the Lyrids.
Venus is so bright in the eastern sky you can’t miss it, and below it Mercury, Mars and Jupiter could be found hanging a few degrees away from each other. If you have hazy skies or live in an urban area, you may need binoculars to see Mars and Jupiter.
This planetary grouping is visible from April 23 to May 30.
Enjoy the show! 🙂
This month’s highlights:
- Saturn in the evening sky
- The 2011 Lyrid Meteor Shower
- Four Planets and a Crescent Moon in the morning sky
|Date||Event||Time (in PHT, UT+8)|
|5||Saturn at Opposition
— The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.
|6||Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun||23:00|
|10||Mercury in inferior conjunction||04:00|
|11||First Quarter Moon||20:05|
|17||Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth)||14:00|
|21-22||Lyrid Meteor Shower*
— The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.
|22||Mercury-Venus-Mars-Jupiter visual alignment
— Visible from April 25 to May 30
|23||Venus at Uranus at minimum separation (0.9 degrees)||dusk|
|25||Last Quarter Moon||10:45|
|27||Neptune 6 degrees south of the Moon||21:00|
|29||Four Planets and Crescent Moon in the morning sky
— On the last two mornings of the month, given a clear low eastern horizon, there will be four planets and a thin crescent Moon visible just above. You will need binoculars, so cease looking when the Sun has risen.
|31||Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth)||02:00|
*Check out the following links for more info:
- Lyrids Meteor Shower – AstronomyLive.com
- Lyrids Watch 2011 – GAM 2011 Events
- Lyrids – Spacedex.com
- Lyrids – MeteorShowersOnline.com
Lyrids Quick Facts:
A video guide on finding the constellation Lyra:
HubbleSite – Tonight’s Sky: April 2011
Clear skies to all and happy observing! 🙂