Q&A: What you need to know about the Lyrid meteor shower

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Stargazers can look forward to catching the Lyrid meteor shower this weekend, as astronomers say it will reach its peak in the early hours of Sunday.

Here is what you need to know.

What is the Lyrid meteor shower?

The shower takes place around this time every year, and although it is not the most impressive, it is typically reliable.

It is named after the Lyra constellation – the star which it appears to come from.

The meteors, which appear as shooting stars, are actually pieces of debris which fall from the Thatcher Comet. It is expected to return in 2276, after a 415-year orbital period.

What time will I be able to see it?

Meteors will be visible throughout the night, said Dr Gregory Brown, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The best time to observe the event is from 2am to 3:30am on Sunday, “when you would have the advantage of the dark sky and the moon is out of the way”, said Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society.

How can I spot the shower?

Viewers are advised to find an open space where there are no trees or high buildings, “particularly towards the east,” said Mr Brown.

Then just lie on the ground, look across the sky, and wait.

“Looking almost east you can find the radial point (where the meteors will appear to come from) in the constellation of Hercules and near the bright star Vega in the constellation of Lyra,” said Mr Brown.

“These will be about 45 degrees above the horizon at midnight, lower earlier on in the night.”

Mr Massey discouraged using a telescope or binoculars as they will restrict the amount of sky that can be seen.

What can I expect to see?

Meteor shower
Stargazers can expect to see around 10 meteors an hour (Danny Lawson/PA)

Because the Moon is in its crescent phase, it shouldn’t drown out the shower too much.

How long does it last for?

Solar Eclipse
Experts advise against using a telescope or binoculars to view the event (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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