Tonight [21 April], the Earths oldest known meteor shower will take place. It is easily viewable, and you can even do it while safely social distancing!
According to NASA, this shower commonly takes places between 16 April and 25 April. This year, it peaks on 21 April. The European Southern Observatory has noted that, if the sky is clear, onlookers should see around 20 meteor streaks per hour.
A meteor shower happens when debris from a comet’s tail vaporises in the atmosphere. From below, this is seen as glowing trails of atmospheric gas. During the Lyrid shower, you will see fragments of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.
Apparently, it is not difficult to catch a glimpse of this breathtaking cosmic light show at all. All you need is some darkness. NASA recommends that you “lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors.”
Lyrid meteors travel at about 49 kilometers per second and the phenomenon was first noticed in China around 687 B.C.
If you’re wondering how you can view this special occurrence in South Africa, then you’re in luck. The Bronberg Weather Station said that the Earth will make its way through the comets dust on the evening of Tuesday, 21 April, according to The South African.
South Africans should look north, in order to see the magnificent shower. It is suggested that you don’t look directly at the Lyra constellation from which the Lyrid shower originates as this will make the glowing tails appear short. Instead, look at the sky as a whole.