The Eta Aquarids, one of spring’s busiest meteor showers, will peak this weekend. Simply step outside and look to the southern night sky to see the “shooting stars.”
The Eta Aquarids reached their peak on Friday morning (May 6), and they will continue to shine brightly in the coming days, with up to 30 meteors per hour possible. These meteors are also notable for their high speed, reaching 148,000 mph (just over 238,000 km/h) as they enter our atmosphere, according to NASA.
Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley), a short-period comet that passes through the inner solar system every 75 to 76 years and will pass by again in about 2061, is the source of the shooting stars. The comet leaves behind its own calling card during these visits: a debris trail of dust grains that Earth passes through every May. The debris that collides with our atmosphere will burn up harmlessly before reaching the ground.
This meteor shower is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere or around the equator, but meteors can still be seen in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office director at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
“It will be interesting to see if the rates are low this year, or if we will get a spike in numbers before next year’s forecast outburst,” Cooke said in a NASA blog post on Wednesday (May 3).
After the moon has set, head outside around 3 a.m. local time for the finest meteor viewing. While the meteors begin around the celestial equator in the constellation Aquarius, it’s best to look at the sky’s zenith (straight up) to view as many as possible.
To avoid neck strain, choose a safe place and bring a lawn chair. According to NASA, move away from as many lights as possible and attempt to get outside at least 20 minutes before you plan to start meteor-hunting to allow your eyes to acclimate to the dark. Apply a red filter or red tape to your phone or flashlight to prevent your night vision from being ruined.
Astrophotographers who want to catch meteors can check out our sister site, Space.com, for a beginner’s guide. If possible, practise snapping images at night before the event starts so you can double-check your settings and ensure the shots are coming out as you want. Have fun searching!
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