May meteor shower: Look for Eta Aquarids Thursday and Friday.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is the first of two showers that occur each year as a result of Earth passing through dust released by Halley’s Comet.
It will be fast, it will be fleeting – but if you catch it, it’s sure to fascinate. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which features debris from Halley’s Comet, will zip across the sky early Thursday and Friday.
Early Thursday will likely be the best viewing morning of the two days, NASA says, although clouds could spoil the view in some areas.
Eta Aquarid meteors, also known as the Aquarids, are known for their speed, according to NASA. These meteors are swift — traveling at about 148,000 mph into Earth’s atmosphere. Fast meteors can leave glowing “trains” (bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) that last for several seconds to minutes.
Under ideal conditions, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will dazzle with up to 20 to 40 meteors per hour.
Though primarily visible in the tropics and in the Southern Hemisphere, keen skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere also should be able to enjoy the show.
The name of the Eta Aquarid meteors came from tracing their paths backward. They seem to radiate from the constellation Aquarius, according to EarthSky. In particular, they come from the faint star Eta Aquarii; the meteor shower is named in honor of this star.
The Eta Aquarid is one of Earth’s two meteor showers that come from the debris trail of the famed Halley’s Comet. The other is the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs each October.
The meteors are pieces of dust and ice from the comet.
Though the shower will be at its peak early Thursday, some meteors will be visible early Friday morning. The May 6 new moon will guarantee deliciously dark skies for this year’s Eta Aquarids, EarthSky reports.
As for the weather: “By far, the best viewing of the meteor shower will be in a swath from the Plains and Mississippi Valley to the Gulf Coast and Florida, where mostly clear skies should dominate,” weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman said. “Viewing in both the West and East may be more challenging.”