How best to watch Lyrid meteor shower as it dazzles the night sky

The Lyrid meteor shower - considered to be the oldest known shower - is set to dazzle the night sky with up to 18 meteors expected each hour.

The display takes place every year between April 16-25, but is expected to reach its peak on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Here is all the information you need to catch sight of some starry night skies.

  • What is the Lyrid meteor shower?

Meteor showers, or shooting stars, are caused when pieces of debris enter Earth's atmosphere at speeds of around 43 miles per second - burning up and causing streaks of light.

The Lyrids are created by debris from comet Thatcher, which takes about 415 years to orbit around the Sun, and is next expected to return to the inner solar system in 2276.

Tania de Sales Marques, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, described comets as "basically dirty iceballs that heat up as the comet approaches the sun, releasing dust and gases into space, and if the Earth, as it moves along its orbit around the sun, encounters these clouds of dust, then we get a meteor shower".

Though not the most active of showers on the stargazing calendar, the event is considered to be the oldest known meteor shower.

The Lyrids takes its name from the constellation of Lyra the Harp, where the shooting stars appear to originate from.

A plane passes by as a man stargazes at Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire as the Orionid meteor shower reaches its peak. Credit: PA
  • When can I see it?

The shower is expected to reach its peak on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Stargazers hoping to catch a glimpse of Vega - Lyra's brightest star - have the best chance at 8pm on Tuesday night.

Ms de Sales Marques said: "To observe the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower, we should look to the right of Vega once it has risen in the north-east direction after 8pm.

"However, we might get a better chance of spotting meteors later on at night.

"Vega will have moved across the sky towards the south and will also be higher up, making it easier to find it."

A meteor is seen during the Perseids meteor shower over the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester. Credit: PA
  • Where is best to watch from?

Up to 18 meteors will be visible per hour during the shower.

Ms de Sales Marques said the best viewing spot is "somewhere shielded from city lights.

"The moon will be in its waning crescent phase which means that we will have a nice dark sky."

Other top tips are to safely go to the darkest place possible and find somewhere with a low horizon so there's nothing blocking the sky.

Finally, give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.