Welcome to the first meteor shower of 2022! Actually, that’s not strictly true. The first few days of January sees the Quadrantids meteor shower, one of the years’ best, though few ever see it because it occurs above the northern hemisphere during freezing temperatures and under cloudy skies.
So next week’s Lyrids meteor shower is generally considered the first major meteor shower of the year.
With a Last Quarter Moon rising in the very early hours on the peak nights we have ideal sky conditions for this year’s Lyrids meteor shower. So if you know when to look, where to look and how to look it should be possible to see “shooting stars” this spring.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Lyrids meteor shower in 2022:
What is the Lyrids meteor shower?
All meteor showers are caused by particles in the Solar System that Earth’s orbital path around the Sun happens to pass through. That’s why meteor showers are annual and happen like clockwork.
The Lyrids meteor shower is caused by dust and debris being left in the inner Solar System by Comet Thatcher (1861 I), which last passed through the inner Solar System in 1861. It’s due back in 2283.
It’s expected to cause around 20 “shooting stars” per hour around its peak, though you may be able to see sporadic activity anytime between April 14-30, 2022.
When is the Lyrids meteor shower?
The peak of the Lyrids meteor shower in 2022 is estimated to take place at 19:00 Universal Time on Friday, April 22, 2022. That’s 15:00 EDT, 12:00 PDT and 20:00 p.m. BST. That favors Europeans, who can go “shooting star”-gazing as soon as it gets dark for peak activity.
North America will miss out on the Lyrids’ absolute peak because it will likely occur during daylight hours. But wherever you are all you have to do is to go outside when it gets dark on Friday, April 22 to have a chance to see “shooting stars.”
Continue looking through to the early hours of Saturday, April 23 because it’s only at midnight when the skies will be truly dark and the source of the “shooting stars” will be high in the sky.
Where to look to see the most ‘shooting stars’
“Shooting stars” can occur anywhere in the sky. However, there are a few steps you can take to maximize your chances. The first is to stand facing east where the constellation of Lyra “the harp” will be rising in the east. Its most obvious star is Vega, one of the brightest in the night sky. Stand east and generally look about halfway up the sky between horizon and the zenith (above your head) … and keep looking. A lawn chair will massively help you.
Lyra gives the Lyrids get its name, though only because its “shooting stars” appear to come from that part of the sky.
How to see the most ‘shooting stars’
The most important thing to do if you want to see shooting stars is to get yourself to a dark sky site. That could be an International Dark Sky Park, which are often also national parks, but it could also be any rural area. Just make sure you are away from any direct lights in your eyes, such as street lights or outdoor security lights.
Try not to look at your smartphone because the white light it gives off will massively degrade your night vision, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes to nurture.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.