Skywatchers can expect a couple of exciting nights when the Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks this week. The meteor shower is expected to begin on Tuesday and last through Thursday, with most meteors visible on Wednesday before sunrise, according to EarthSky.org.
The best vantage point is the southern hemisphere – and all you have to do is look.
What are the Eta Aquarids?
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks in early May each year when the earth crosses the debris path from Halley’s comet (1P / Halley). The Orionids’ meteor shower in October also originated from this comet.
The famous Halley’s Comet is visible from Earth approximately every 76 years. It was last seen in 1986 and won’t be visible again until 2061.
Every year when the Earth collides with the comet’s orbit, according to NASA, vaporizing debris flies into our atmosphere at a whopping 148,000 miles per hour, making the meteors known for their speed. Fast meteors tend to leave glowing dust “trains” behind and produce great “shooting stars”.
Under normal conditions, the annual meteor shower typically produces around 30 meteors per hour. It is named for its radiation or direction of origin, which seems to come from the constellation Aquarius.
The Eta Aquarids are one of the best meteor showers of the year for people in the southern hemisphere, as Aquarius is higher in the sky there – but is also visible in the northern hemisphere.
When and where you can watch the Eta Aquarids
The shower is visible in both hemispheres, with the best view being on Wednesday just before sunrise. Finding the radiation point is not necessary for the display. All you have to do is look it up.
Viewing the southern hemisphere is preferable, but not required. From the northern hemisphere, the falling stars often appear as “Erdweider”: long meteors that seem to fly over the surface of the earth near the horizon.
To see a meteor shower, it is advisable to escape the harsh city lights and find an open area. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up. Leave your eyes in the dark for about 30 minutes to allow them to adjust.
Be patient and don’t forget a blanket!