When Can You See the Peak of the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower?

Heaven provides us earthlings with many interesting things to see in the sky this month. A total lunar eclipse and a planetary alignment would be enough, but there’s more: Shooting stars from the Eta Aquarids meteor shower will streak across the sky this week.

Peak meteor viewing will begin tonight, Thursday, May 5th, but will continue until Friday night, peak viewing time for the Eta Aquarid show this year. You will still be able to see shooting stars on Saturday and Sunday.

Viewing conditions this year are ideal. A chunk of the moon that sets relatively early provides darker skies. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, expect to see 10-20 meteors per hour from the constellation of Aquarius, especially from the star Eta Aquarii. However, make sure you are as far away from city lights as possible for the best viewing experience.

The Eta Aquarid meteors are the remnants of Comet Haley.

The only comet to be seen twice in a person’s lifetime, Comet Haley is visible on Earth every 75–76 years. The last time we saw him was in 1986, but what he left behind we see twice a year.

Comets, moving in space, leave behind trails of debris, particles the size of pebbles or grains of sand. This eventually propagates along the comet’s orbital path. Twice a year, the Earth passes through the debris field left by Comet Haley: once in mid to late October and once in early May. As we traverse Hailey’s path, some particles end up being pulled towards the Earth and burning up in our atmosphere results in shooting stars.

In other words, the Universe has worked hard to make this happen. The least you can do is go outside and have a look.


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