There are showers in the forecast, but you won’t need a raincoat. There is no weather system approaching from the west, but the Earth is approaching a stream of debris that will result in the annual Eta Aquarids meteor shower!
This meteor shower’s claim to fame is that it’s created by leftover pieces of Halley’s Comet which last swung past Earth in 1986. Every year we can still see sand grain-sized particles shed by this icy visitor burn up high above our heads.
People often talk about the radiant of a meteor shower – that’s the point in the sky from which the shooting stars seem to emerge. In this case, the radiant is from the constellation Aquarius, which you’ll find in the northeastern sky. The shower is named after the brightest star of the constellation, Eta Aquarii.
The shower should peak the night of May 5 to May 6. This should be a good year for the Eta Aquarids meteor shower – it takes place during the new moon, so the skies should be nice and dark! This is typically a fairly active shower; astronomers expect up to 50 meteors an hour will be visible streaking across the sky.
This display will suit you if you’re an early bird as opposed to a night owl. The best viewing will be during the hours before sunrise. If you can’t make it out the morning of May 6, you’re still in luck. Halley’s stream of debris is wide and spreads the display over three full days: May 4, 5 and 6.
What to do:
- Find a dark viewing area – as far away from the city lights as possible.
- Set up a comfortable chair, facing the northeast.
- Give your eyes time to adjust; it may take 15 to 20 minutes for them to get used to the dark.
The Earth passes through Halley’s path around the sun a second time – in October – and this gives us the Orionid meteor shower. The fall show usually peaks around Oct. 20. Comet Halley takes about 76 years to make a complete revolution around the sun. The next time the comet itself will be visible from Earth is in 2062.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy its offspring. Happy Skywatching!
Have a weather question, photo or drawing to share with Cindy Day? Email email@example.com
Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.