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Lyrid meteor shower: When and where you can watch it this weekend | UK News

The Lyrid meteor shower in 2020

The Lyrid meteor shower is expected to light up the dawn skies in parts of the country this weekend, with up to 18 shooting stars an hour expected.

There will be bright fast meteors – some with trains, or trails of vapourised rock, according to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Here’s all you need to know to maximise your chance of seeing it.

When is the best time to see it?

The display will peak in the early hours of Sunday 23 April and will be visible until dawn.

It will be active from 14 to 30 April, but Saturday night into Sunday morning will be the best chance of getting a good view of it.

Don Pollacco, professor of Physics at the University of Warwick, said: “The best time to see these is after midnight on a moonless night, with as little light pollution as possible.

“You’ll need a comfortable place to sit as this shower only produces about 20 meteors an hour – if you’re lucky!”

Where is the best place to watch it?

The most important thing is to find a dark place with an unobstructed view of the sky.

Luckily, the peak comes just after new moon, so light pollution from the moon will not spoil the view.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich recommends wrapping up warm and grabbing a blanket to lie back on – or a deck chair, if you want a comfier experience.

Will it be good stargazing weather?

Unfortunately most of the UK isn’t set for optimal stargazing weather.

Northern Scotland looks like it could get the best of the weather, with forecasts it will be mostly fine and sunny on Saturday, but low cloud and fog will continue to plague northeastern coasts.

Elsewhere, most places are at risk of showers or longer spells of rain and it will feel rather chilly.

Saturday evening
The forecast for Saturday indicates much of the country could be in for rain and cloud

What is a meteor shower and where do the Lyrid meteors come from?

Meteor showers, or shooting stars, are caused when pieces of debris, known as meteorites, enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of around 43 miles per second, burning up and causing streaks of light.

In this case, the debris comes from the Thatcher Comet, which is expected to return to the inner solar system in the year 2276, after an orbital period of 415 years.

Prof Pollacco said: “As comets orbit the sun, the action of the energy evaporates material from the cometary nucleus, which we see as a comet’s tail.

“The gas and dust created stay in the comet’s orbit, even long after the comet has moved along its orbit.

“If the Earth passes through the comet’s orbit any material deposited by the comet could become meteors or shooting stars in the sky.

“These bodies are usually the size of dust particles but when they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, they are travelling so fast that they are vapourised.

“Along the path that the dust particle travels, the gas molecules are superheated and give out light – this is a meteor.

“We don’t actually see the dust, instead its vapourised effects on the molecules.”

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