- Meteors are chunks of dust and ice from Halley’s Comet.
- These meteors are fast – traveling at around 148,000 mph in Earth’s atmosphere.
- The highest Eta Aquarid meteor count is expected to fall before dawn on Wednesday, May 5.
One of the main spring skygazing events is coming this week: the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which comes from the debris trail of the famous Halley’s Comet.
This year, forecasts point to the highest number of Eta Aquarid meteors before dawn on Wednesday, May 5, according to EarthSky.org.
“But don’t overlook May 4 or 6, because either or both could provide a good meteor shower as well,” EarthSky’s Bruce McClure said.
Eta Aquarid meteors, also called Aquarids, are known for their speed, according to NASA. Meteors are fast – traveling at around 148,000 mph in Earth’s atmosphere. Rapid meteors can leave bright “trains” (pieces of debris in the meteor’s wake) that last from seconds to minutes.
The rain favors the southern hemisphere because the point in the sky where the meteors seem to come from is in the constellation Aquarius, which is higher in the sky in the southern hemisphere. But people in the northern hemisphere can still see and enjoy the shower, with around 10 meteors per hour expected at its peak.
In the northern hemisphere, Eta Aquarid meteors can more often be considered “diggers,” NASA said. Earthgrazers are long meteors that appear to skim the Earth’s surface on the horizon.
The Eta Aquarid is one of Earth’s two meteor showers that originate from the debris trail of the famous Halley’s Comet. The other is the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs every October.
Meteors are pieces of dust and ice from a comet.
Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but it is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA said the comet was featured in the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered fabric that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The comet itself can be seen from Earth about every 76 years, but the particles that create the Eta Aquarid shower were rejected hundreds of years ago.
How to watch a meteor shower: tips for the best viewing experience
If you’re new to meteor showers, here are some tips from EarthSky:
- Allow yourself at least an hour of viewing time to watch any meteor shower. Meteors tend to come in bursts interspersed with lulls. Additionally, it may take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.
- Moonlight could also hamper sighting of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower this year.
- You don’t need any special gear to watch a meteor shower, but a little luck always helps. Find a dark, clear sky away from artificial lights and stretch out on a reclining lawn chair. Watching meteors is a lot like fishing. Sometimes you catch a good number of them, and sometimes you don’t, EarthSky said.
Contributor: Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post