The Sky Tonight Update: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7.

From places south of the equator, the Eta Aquarids put on a very good show; Australians consider them to be their best meteor display of the year.   

But for those watching from north of the equator, it’s a much different story. 

For most us here in the US, perhaps the best hope is catching a glimpse of a meteor emerging from Aquarius that will skim the Earth’s atmosphere horizontally — much like a bug skimming the side window of an automobile. Meteor watchers call such shooting stars “Earthgrazers.” They leave colorful, long-lasting trails which are extremely long and tend to hug the horizon rather than shooting overhead. They are also rarely numerous, but if you are fortunate to catch sight of only one or two it will make getting up and heading outside before the first light of dawn well worthwhile. 

The waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s