Sunday, April 20, 2014
The 2014 Australian Lyrid Meteor Shower, Morning 23 April
The Lyrids, the debris of comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher) are a weak but reliable shower that occurs every year between April 16- April 25, with the peak this year between 4-15 hrs UT on April 22 .
That's between 2pm -April 22 to 1 am 23 April in east coast Australia, but as the radiant doesn't rise until 1 am, the best time to view the Lyrids in Australia is from 4 am on the 23rd.
The predicted ZHR this year is 18 meteors per hour. This means that under ideal conditions, you will see a meteor on average about once every three minutes. This can be as interesting as watching paint dry. Also, while that meteor every three minutes is the average, meteors are like buses, you wait for ages and then a whole bunch turn up.
The rate is actually less than the ZHR, ZHR means Zenithal Hourly Rate, the number of meteors you could expect to see if the radiant (the apparent position where the meteors originate) was at the highest point of the sky, under dark sky conditions.
Of course under real conditions the Lyrids radiant will not rise that high for most places, and most places won't have really dark skies. The lower the radiant is, the thicker atmosphere will obscure the fainter meteors, and some of the meteors will start to "burn" below the horizon, so over all you will see fewer.
This is particularly true in Australia, where the radiant is very low to the horizon. In Australia the radiant rises about 1 am local time, but it is not really high enough for there to be any real chance of seeing meteors until around 4 am, when the radiant is between three handspans to four handspans above the horizon (see diagram above). The other factor is the just past last quarter Moon which is not far from the radiant, washing the fainter meteors out.
From Australia, at 4 am, under dark sky conditions, we will see between 2 meteors per hour (southern states) to 3 meteors per hour (Northern Territory and QLD).
Choose 6 April Lyrids from the drop down meteor shower Menu, the date (make sure that you set the year to 2014, and your location, most people will have to put in their latitude and longitude (strangely, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth are listed in the drop down menu, but Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart are not) under "other" in the location box.
This will give you a chart of the numbers of meteors per hour you can expect at various times (see image to the left).
The Lyrids are pretty poor in Australia, but if you are patient you may see the occasional meteor shooting up from below the horizon.