Stories about the impending Lyrid meteor shower on Wednesday night have been peppering the news: we know what it is (a shower that occurs each April when debris from the Comet Thatcher meteor vaporises in Earth’s atmosphere); what time to look for it (between midnight and dawn); and how many meteors we can expect to see (between 10 and 18 per hour).
But Perry Vlahos, vice president and curator of current phenomena at the Astronomical Society of Victoria, says you’re better off staying in bed.
“The Lyrid Meteor Shower, from our position … is never anything worth getting up for,” he tells Broadsheet. “I can guarantee you from Melbourne you might only see one or two meteors from this shower. In fact, go out any night and you’re likely to see more ‘sporadic’ meteors (coincidental bits of debris that ‘fall’ into the earth’s atmosphere and burn up as ‘shooting stars’ in any direction) than what you’ll see from the Lyrids. You’re more likely to see Billie Eilish in a dress than a Lyrid meteor from where we live.”
If you’re hoping to catch the meteor shower from Sydney, Vlahos says the view there will be equally unimpressive. If you’re further north, near Brisbane, “you may see three or four, but I wouldn’t guarantee it”.
The Lyrid meteor shower is more visible in the northern hemisphere, but even there, it’s not considered one of the best. “You’d see more random meteors – three or four, just on any clear night if you continue looking up for an hour – than from the Lyrid meteor shower,” says Vlahos.
In his opinion there are only three meteor showers worth staying awake for in the southern hemisphere: the Eta Aquarids (in the first week of May); the Orionids (October); and the Geminids (December).
You’ve been warned.