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Lyrid meteor shower: Shooting stars set to light up UK skies

Amateur astronomers could be in for a treat this week as shooting stars are set to light up the night sky – and some could even see fireballs during the first major showers since January.

The Lyrid meteor shower is a burst of activity which takes place annually – usually around mid to late April – and is associated with the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, according to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The Lyrids appear to radiate close to the constellation Lyra and are bits of rock and dust left behind by the comet.

The Lyrid meteor shower is expected to peak on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. File pic
Image: The Lyrid meteor shower is expected to peak on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. File pic

The shower is expected to peak on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, and there could be around 20 meteors an hour.

Experts also claim stargazers could see “occasional fireballs” that can be “bigger and brighter” than shooting stars, and last longer – “for between five and 10 seconds”, as they say you could “blink and miss a meteor”.

The showers will be visible across the UK, but those living in dark, rural areas are likely to see more than people living in cities where there is a lot of light pollution.

But due to the coronavirus lockdown, keen stargazers should only try and view the shower from their own homes.

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Speaking to Sky News, astronomer Ed Bloom, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the “radiant of the Lyrids will be low on the horizon towards the northeast as the sun sets”.

He added that people would need to have “patience” – as “it could be an hour before you see anything, so wrap up warm and get comfy in your garden”.

“Over the course of the night, the radiant of the Lyrids will rise and move southwards as the earth spins, and will still be up when the sun rises.”

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He continued: “The three bright stars Vega, Altair and Deneb form an ‘asterism’ known as the Summer Triangle – they can be a useful way to orientate yourself properly.”

Mr Bloom shared some tips on the best way to see the showers.

He said: “The Lyrid radiant lies close to Vega, the ‘top-right’ vertex of the triangle, and if you can face that, just look slightly to what will now be your right.

“Peak activity is usually around the 22 April, and will have died away completely by the end of the 26th, but that still gives us a few days leeway, so if bad weather ruins your nights’ observations, give it another go!”

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