The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will present its most spectacular display during the nights of Wednesday, May 4-5 and Thursday, May 5-6. The meteor shower is among those that are harder to observe in the United States.
Eta Aquarids, remnants of the Halley’s Comet left in our Solar System, collide with our atmosphere as the Earth passes through them every year in May.
When seen from the Earth’s surface, the meteors appear to come from the area of the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation—Eta Aquarii—hence the name.
Eta Aquarids stand out for their speed, traveling at about 148,000 mph (238,183 km per hour). Thanks to their speed, they can leave glowing trails that last for a few seconds up to minutes, according to NASA.
Aquarius is quite low in the sky during this time of the year, making the meteor shower harder to observe.
In the Southern hemisphere people can spot up to 20 meteors per hour.
In the Northern hemisphere only about 10 per hour are visible.
The best viewing time is during the few hours before dawn.
Thus, if you are willing to get up really early and have access to a sufficiently dark sky (away from city lights), you can enjoy the show.
“To view the Eta Aquarids find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket, or lawn chair,” NASA recommends. “Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient—the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”
The best the night should be over May 4 to May 5.
Halley’s Comet passes though the Solar System once in 75 to 76 years. Last time it appeared was 1986, so there’s a long way to go before it’s due again—in 2061.