Stargazers love a good meteor shower, and while the Perseids or Leonids get the most attention, another exquisite one is just ramping up. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower occurs every spring between April 22nd and May 20th, and this year, it’s expected to peak around dawn on May 6th.
This underrated shower gets its name from the place its material appears to originate from—a bright star called Eta Aquarii, located in the constellation Aquarius. The coolest part about the event is that it’s technically associated with Halley’s comet—you know, that one that’s visible from Earth every 76 years. While the comet itself won’t be viewable from Earth again until 2061, we can still check out the Aquarids, tiny pieces of icy debris that parted ways with the comet long ago.
Skywatchers should be able to see up to 30 meteors per hour—while the name “shooting stars” is the popular way to describe these little guys, the meteors are actually just tiny flecks of ice burning up in our atmosphere. It’s true that 30 bright flashes per hour isn’t quite as much action as the Perseid or Geminid showers, which can produce up to 50-100 meteors per hour. But the meteors in the Aquarid shower actually quite bright, and since they move very quickly—about 148,000 miles per hour—they leave very long “tails” in the sky.
This year, the moon will have set by about 4am local time, which, according to Space.com, will be the best time for viewing. Without the moon’s light getting in the way, these meteors will finally have their chance to shine. Viewers near the equator will have the best view of the Aquarids, but folks farther north should still get to see some meteors. Though the meteors will appear to radiate from Aquarius, they’ll be visible all over. Of course, the darker your viewing location the better—no one wants to deal with pesky light pollution.
Happy stargazing, and as always, send me pictures!