THE first shooting stars of Spring, called Lyrids, appeared in the night sky on Friday night, reaching speeds of up to 50 kilometres per second.
According to astrophysicist Chrysanthos Fakas, shooting or falling stars have nothing to do with being stars or parts of stars. They are visible remnants of a comet, like rocks and dust which are attracted by the gravity of the earth. They can be seen as they give out light by being burned as they hurl towards the earth, creating the phenomenon of shooting stars.
The Lyrid meteor shower consists of remnants of Comet C/1861, also called Thatcher. The orbit of this comet appears to lie in the constellation Lyra, hence the name.
“If some of these are large enough and reach the Earth’s surface they are called meteorites, but if they burn up in the sky they are called shooting stars. Some of them are very powerful and bright and we call them bullets,” Fakas explained.
These days the Earth’s orbit passes near the orbit of Comet Thatcher.
“The phenomenon will be visible from Cyprus between now and April 25,” the astrophysicist explained. “The direction to look for is in the northern sky, in the constellation of Lyra near the Great Bear.”
However there is a downside, as the full moon will reduce the visibility of the phenomenon.
Comet Thatcher, or C / 1861 G1, orbits in this area every 415 years. It took its name from the man who discovered it, A.E. Thatcher.