Lyrid meteor shower: Expert discusses cluster of ‘shooting stars’
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The evening of April 21 and the early hours of April 22 saw up to 18 shooting stars per hour as the Lyrids meteor shower peaked. Stargazers were treated to the display as Earth passed through the debris left by the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. However, those who missed out will not have to wait long for the next display.
When is the next meteor shower?
The next meteor shower is only a matter of weeks away when the Eta Aquariids shooting stars become visible.
Eta Aquariids are one of the most prolific meteor showers, with astronomers and amateur stargazers expecting to see up to 40 shooting stars per hour.
The peak of the next display comes on May 6.
The meteor shower is most visible in the southern hemisphere of the planet, although it will still be visible to the UK.
The Royal Greenwich Observatory said: “Like with most meteor showers, the name comes from the constellation in the night sky that it appears to radiate from.
“In this case, it’s the Aquarius constellation. But why isn’t it called the ‘Aquarid’ meteor shower?
“This is because, more specifically, the name comes from one of the stars from this constellation: Eta Aquarii.”
Eta Aquariids is a result of Earth travelling through the debris from Halley’s Comet.
Halley’s Comet, arguably the most famous of all the known comets, takes 75 to 76 years to orbit the sun, but often comes close to Earth.
When it does come close, some of the comet’s offshoot – which are usually as small as a grain of sand – burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere allowing people to see the spectacular shooting stars.
Halley’s Comet creates one shower in May – the Eta Aquariid shower – and one in October – the Orionids meteor shower.
The comet is believed to have been first observed some 2,200 years ago but it was not until astronomer Edmond Halley in 1705 that it was officially recognised.
The astronomer was the first scientist to correctly predict the comet’s return in 1758 and Halley was honoured by having the comet named after him.
But the comet has been sighted by different civilisations “for millennia” and was even spotted during the battle of Hastings – the spectacle was stitched into the Bayeux Tapestry.
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