The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is at its peak – here’s how to see it

If you have clear skies and need an excuse to get out of town, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is about at its peak and should be strong tonight. This annual shower consists of remnants of Halley’s Comet, which Earth passes through. It is active from April 15 to May 27 and can occur at a rate of around 10-30 meteors per hour. according to the American Meteor Society.

You can see the Aquarids at about 2 a.m. local time in the Northern Hemisphere, radiating from the constellation Aquarius (although you I want to look at Aquarius at a 40-60 degree angle To see you). Weather permitting, viewing conditions are fairly good as the moon is in its late waning phase and does not reflect much light. Try planning your stargazing spot using one Light pollution map Or contact your local astronomy society for tips on the best places for unrestricted observation.

As NASA writes, Eta Aquarid can be viewed as “earth grazers” or “long meteors that appear to glide across the Earth’s surface on the horizon.” They move quickly, moving at over 40 miles per second.

You can also bring binoculars or a telescope if you want to look at the stars, but you can see meteors with the naked eye, and trying to look for them with binoculars limits your field of vision too much to be practical . Also make sure to protect your neck with a lounge chair or something to lie down on; The head that watches the stars is heavy. And dress appropriately, as it is often cooler at night in the country than in the city.

An Eta Aquarid meteor in Georgia in 2012.
Image: NASA / MSFC / B. Cooke

Finally, be patient. It can take about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness to be able to see meteors. Once it does, assuming you’re in a dark enough location, you should be able to see not only the meteors, but plenty of stars and even satellites moving across the sky.

Halley’s Comet, inconveniently for most, only comes by once every 76 years. The last time it showed its tail to Earth’s inhabitants was in 1986, when I was three years old, and it won’t be here again until 2061, when I’m 78 (if I’m even still alive). Very rude. But at least we get to see some of the trash it leaves behind.

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