Incoming meteor shower: The Eta Aquarids meteor shower has been very active and peaks on the 5-6th of May! Here’s what it’s all about and how you can spot them…
As the Earth continues its path on its elliptical orbit around the Sun, it finally crosses path with the debris lane left in the wake of Halley’s comet pass. When these rocky leftovers enter our atmosphere, they burn up in a color relative to the metals they contain and are called meteors. As a viewer from Earth, it will look like the meteors all originate from a point (called the radiant) close to the constellation Aquarius. The activity of this meteor shower is quite extensive (a week or two!) but peaks around the 4-5-6th of May with up to 20 meteors visible per hour.
Aquarius is more visible from the southern hemisphere as it gets quite high in the southern night sky at this time of year. For viewers of the northern hemisphere there is a silver lining though. The first good news is that the moon will be new around that time allowing you to watch the shower in its full glory. The second neat fact is that since Aquarius will be low on the horizon, the chance of seeing huge fireballs crossing the whole night sky from one end to the other is rather significant. Indeed the meteors that make it to this part of the sky will often enter the atmosphere sideways and not straight into it. The biggest chucks of debris will have more fuel to burn and might produce what we call bolides. These huge meteors light up the sky for up to a few seconds and take on green/blue tints.
All you need to do is find a dark location preferably outside of the city. Ideally you will have to find clear skies as well as clouds generally block the view. The radiant point rises around 3:30 am (for central Europe, GMT+1) in the East. However bright and long-lasting meteors might be possible while it is still below the horizon. Depending on where you are located the show will likely last until the day light takes over. So don’t pass on one of the best meteor showers this year!