During the second half of April the annual rain of stars of the Lyrids takes place, when our planet crosses the cloud of particles that a comet left more than a century ago. Its maximum will be the night of Tuesday 21 to Wednesday 22 and, with patience, you can see some crossing the sky every 10 or 15 minutes. Yes, from home.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower, which appears to come from the constellation Lyre, can be observed regularly each year between April 16 and 26. When most will be seen in this 2020 will be the night of April 21.
On this occasion, like the astronomical events that have occurred since the state of alarm for the coronavirus was decreed, we will have to see these 'stars' (in fact they are not) from home, and armed with patience, as it is expected that you can hardly see one every 10 to 15 minutes.
Comets, in their orbit around the Sun, leave behind a trail of ice, dust and rocks. The Earth, in its annual journey around the star, crosses these clouds of tiny particles, called meteoroids. When these pass through the earth's atmosphere, an intense friction is produced that originates the spectacular light lines that we see crossing the sky.
The trail of a comet that passed in 1861
During these days, we are passing through the cloud of particles that Comet Thatcher (C / 1861 G1) left behind on its last visit to the Earth's perigee, in 1861.
Although it is possible that from mid to late April we will see some of these meteors disintegrate in the atmosphere, the maximum of the meteor shower will take place on the night of Tuesday 21 to Wednesday 22 April, starting at 11:00 p.m.
In addition, that night, the new moon will be on our side, to facilitate the feat of seeing some “shooting star”.
Meteor showers get their names from the constellation from which they appear to emanate. The Lyrids are so named because their radiant (the point from which they seem to come) is in the constellation Lyra, which we can identify because it contains the star Vega, one of the brightest in the night sky.
As a curiosity, in the movieContact, the alien signal that the character played by Jodie Foster receives comes from that bright star. But it won't be necessary for us to look up at her for a chance to make wishes, as is sometimes done when seeing shooting stars. It will be enough if we fix our eyes on any point in the sky and wait patiently for a few minutes.
Throughout the year there can be up to 50 meteor showers (flashes of light emitted by particles or meteoroids), but the most significant are the Quadrantids, the Perseids and the Geminids.
During the afternoon before the peak of the Líridas, starting at 8:05 p.m. (peninsular time), the IAC astronomer and administrator of the Teide Observatory, Miquel Serra-Ricart, will speak about them in a talk of a cycle called #IACUniversoEnCasa .