The star Omicron Ceti, Mira, has a special place in the hearts of variable star observers, as it was one of the first stars to be recognised as being variable. Read more
Weather permitting, 2017 should be a great year for observing the Geminids, with peak activity due to occur durig the night of Dec 13-14 (Wed-Thurs). Geminid rates will also be quite high during the night of Dec 12-13 and also fairly good during the nights of Dec 11-12 and Dec 14-15, but do be aware that rates drop off quite steeply in the nights after maximum. Read more
The Lyrid meteor shower is already active and is due to reach its annual peak on the morning of April 22nd (Saturday). Good news is that moonlight will not be an issue this year.
Despite producing somewhat lower peak rates than August’s Perseids or December’s Geminids, the Lyrids do stand out well against the rather low background meteor rates of the spring months.
The Lyrid radiant (see chart below), from which the meteors appear to radiate, is above the horizon all night, being fairly low in the north-east at first, but quite rapidly gaining altitude as the night progresses. The number of Lyrids seen will follow a similar pattern, steadily increasing as the radiant gets higher in the sky. The best observed rates are likely to be seen in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning.
Although the meteors appear to come from the radiant, it’s best to look at some distance from the radiant in order to see the meteors at their best.
The actual number of Lyrids seen will also depend on the darkness of your observing site. From a dark observing site, rates approaching a dozen Lyrids per hour may be reached on Saturday morning. Observed rates will be lower from less dark locations.
In addition to finding as dark an observing site as possible, make sure that you have a clear view of the sky. As always, to see the most Lyrids, don’t look directly at the radiant area, but at an area of sky around 30 degrees from the radiant and around 50 degrees above the horizon. As ever, make sure that you are well wrapped up against the cold!
More information about the 2017 Lyrids can be found here.
The chart below shows the location of the Lyrid radiant, with the horizon shown for the early hours of the morning.
The variable star Mira (omicron Ceti) brightened rapidly during January and is now visible with the naked eye from reasonably dark observing sites. From less dark sites it should be easy to see in small binoculars. Read more