Published on Apr 29, 2017
This year the Eta Aquarids will peak during the early hours of 5-7 May worldwide. Slightly higher rates are likely overnight May 5-6 than on May 6-7 but the shower's broad peak means that both nights will have meteors. Some Eta Aquarid meteors may be visible for a few days before and after the peak.
The Eta Aquarids peak during early-May each year. Eta Aquarid meteors are known for their speed. These meteors are fast -- traveling at about 66 km/s (148,000 mph) into Earth's atmosphere. Fast meteors can leave glowing "trains" which last for several seconds to minutes. In general, 30-50 Eta Aquarid meteors can be seen per hour during their peak.
The Eta Aquarids are viewable in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres during the pre-dawn hours. The Southern Hemisphere is preferable for viewing the Eta Aquarids.
The constellation of Aquarius -- home to the radiant of the Eta Aquarids -- is higher up in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere than it is in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, Eta Aquarid meteors can more often be seen as "earthgrazers." Earthgrazers are long meteors that appear to skim the surface of the Earth at the horizon.
The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the Eta Aquarids originate from comet 1P/Halley. Each time that Halley returns to the inner solar system its nucleus sheds a layer of ice and rock into space. The dust grains eventually become the Eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October if they collide with Earth's atmosphere.
Comet Halley takes about 76 years to orbit the sun once. The last time comet Halley was seen by casual observers was in 1986. Comet Halley will not enter the inner solar system again until 2061.
Their radiant -- the point in the sky from which the Eta Aquarids appear to come from -- is the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer. One of the brightest stars within Aquarius is called Eta Aquarii, and these meteors appear from this area of the constellation.
Clips, images credit: ESO, ESA/HUBBLE & NASA
Music credit: Drifting 2 by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/...)