Indeed, April is an exciting month for the sky. As Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s Comet as well as the event of the Lyrids Meteor Shower , the sky will be flashing and firing with activity, and the moon will also provide us with the clearest skies this month.
The Lyrids meteor shower is sourced from the debris of the comet Thatcher, and is one of the oldest meteor showers in its origin. The Lyrids shower will run from 16 to 25 April, but the most activity will take place on 22 and 23 April, after midnight and before dawn.
Halley’s Comet takes around 75 years to orbit the Sun, so we won’t see the actual comet until about 2061, but we will still be able to enjoy watching as the comets long tail of debris burns up through entering our atmosphere. The month-long meteor showers will run from about 20 April to 21 May, however, you will already be able to see activity from 5 May when the New Moon provides dark, clear skies. In the Southern Hemisphere it has been predicted that you will be able to see around 30 meteors per hour flash across the night sky.
The first shower is called the Eta Aquarid because the meteors will be in the same position in the sky as the constellation Aquarius. You won’t need to use telescopes or any special equipment to see the Eta Aquarid shower, but it is better to be in an area with the least amount of light pollution and open sky. The best time to see these showers is in the early hours of the morning, just before twilight breaks. So don’t worry if you’re pulling all nighters to finish those assignments and study for tests, you will be rewarded.
It is recommended to give yourself at least an hour to watch the meteors as your eyes need to adjust to the darkness and the meteors themselves are unpredictable and sporadic. So pencil in the above dates to fully indulge in the stargazing experience. April will also be the month where Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury will be in their best eastern elongation positions for observation, so make your coffee and set your alarm; it’s going to be worth it.