Lyrid meteor shower UK: shooting stars will light the night this week

The Lyrid meteor shower is the first major meteor shower of the year (Wittwoophoto/REX)

If you need a break from the coronavirus chaos, then you may find it among the stars this week.

That’s because the Lyrid meteor shower is set to be visible above the UK all week. It won’t peak until next week but providing the night is clear you’ll be able to see some shooting stars this very night.

The Lyrid meteor shower takes place every April and is usually active from today, April 16, through to April 25. It will peak next week on April 22 which will be the best time to get outside and try and spot meteors.

No matter where you are in the UK (or the world) the best time to try and spot meteors is between midnight and dawn. Naturally, you’re going to have a better view if you’re away from light pollution.

If you do manage to get outside into a garden (or can sit at a well-positioned window) and observe the meteors you’ll be carrying on a grand astronomical tradition. People have been observing the Lyrids for 2,600 years and it’s possible to see up to 10 shooting stars each hour.

Chinese astronomers wrote about the Lyrids in 687BC, writing ‘at midnight, stars fell like rain’.

You won’t need a telescope or any special equipment to see them yourself, just be prepared to wrap up warm as the temperature drops and make sure you’re watching the shower from your own home.

What causes the Lyrid meteor shower?

You can see up to 10 meteors per hour when the shower hits its peak (Lynn Bo Bo/EPA/REX)

The annual display is caused by the Earth passing through a cloud of debris from a comet called C/186 Thatcher.

Britain’s Met Office says: ‘Known for their fast, bright meteors, the Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers. They originate from comet Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861.

‘The Lyrid meteor shower is named as such because it appears to radiate from the constellation Lyra, though it is better to view the Lyrids away from this constellation so they appear longer and more impressive.’

How to see the Lyrid meteor shower

Allow 15-20 minutes for your eyes to get used to the darkness (Fatma Selma Kocabas Aydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

To see it look for the Big Dipper or The Plough (they’re the same thing, but actually they’re back end of the Great Bear constellation).

You should see streaks of light blazing through the night sky before too long.

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