Monday, May 5, 2014

Eta Aquarid meteor shower makes an appearance this week

For skygazers and space weather enthusiasts, near perfect viewing conditions will exist tonight for the annual "eta Aquarid" meteor shower. Though the southern hemisphere viewer will have a distinct advantage over those of us north of the Equator, several meteors will likely be visible in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

The meteor shower is actually produced by flakes of dust or rock particles from Halley's Comet as Earth passes through a stream of debris left behind by the comet. The eta Aquarid name is derived because the meteors appear to be emanating from the constellation Aquarius in the eastern sky.

The best viewing time will be in the wee hours Tuesday morning before the sun's rays start to lighten the sky prior to dawn. Viewing will be best if looking in the eastern to southeastern sky, so a location with a clear view of the east-southeast horizon is best. Though the meteors could be anywhere in the sky, their tails will all point back towards Aquarius in the east. Up to 10-20 meteors per hour could be visible. says there is a decent chance of meteors of the "Earthgrazer" variety, which are widely known for their beauty - slowly skimming horizontally in a dramatic approach. The best time for Earthgrazers is 2:00-2:30am.

The best viewing for meteors tonight will be low in the eastern sky. Graphic courtesy

If you miss the meteor shower tonight, there will be one more opportunity at the same time and location on Wednesday morning. Let us know if you make it out and see any meteors!

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