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When and where you can see the Eta Aquariids meteor shower peak

In World
May 05, 2024

Get ready for one of the best meteor showers of the year, astronomy fans: the Eta Aquariids are about to peak, according to NASA.

The shower will peak overnight on Sunday into Monday, though meteors from the shower will be visible throughout the week, NASA said. The peak is happening near a new moon, which means the sky will be darker and it will be easier to catch a glimpse of the meteors.

When and where to see the Eta Aquariids meteor shower

The best time to see the meteor shower is overnight Sunday into Monday. The shower will be viewable in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere during pre-dawn hours, though the best viewing experience will be in the Southern Hemisphere. Viewers in the Southern Hemisphere can catch 40 meteors per hour, while in the Northern Hemisphere, viewers will see 10-20 meteors an hour.

Eta Aquarid meteors in the Northern Hemisphere are often Earthgrazers — long meteors that appear to skim the surface of the Earth at the horizon.

To get the best view, head to an area well away from city lights or street lights. NASA advises lying flat on your back with your feet facing east. It will take about 30 minutes in the dark for your eyes to adjust enough to see meteors.

A flight-illuminated path and the Milky Way are appearing in the night sky during the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which is peaking in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, on May 5, 2024.  / Credit: Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A flight-illuminated path and the Milky Way are appearing in the night sky during the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which is peaking in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, on May 5, 2024. / Credit: Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse,” NASA said.

After the peak, the shower will continue through May 27.

What makes the Eta Aquariids special?

The Eta Aquariids are known for their speed. NASA notes that fast meteors can leave glowing trains behind them, which can last for several seconds to minutes. The Eta Aquariids travel 44 miles per second.

Meteors in the Eta Aquariids come from space debris that originated from Halley’s comet. Halley sheds a layer of ice and rocks into space each time it returns to the inner solar system. The shed space dust forms two meteor showers a year: the Eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October.

What are meteor showers?

While meteors — space rocks that enter Earth’s atmosphere — streak through the sky every night, meteor showers happen less frequently. Many meteors hit Earth’s atmosphere over a short period of time during meteor showers. As they pass through the atmosphere, the meteors leave behind streaks of light caused by glowing, hot air.

Most meteors burn up as they fall, but there are some that survive the trip and reach Earth. Those are considered meteorites.

Look up — what else can you see in the sky this spring?

Astronomy fans can check out the Flower Moon this month as May’s full moon rises. May’s full moon will reach peak illumination on May 23 according to NASA. The Old Farmer’s Almanac details specific moonrise times for different ZIP codes across the United States.

May’s full moon is the last full moon of spring. June’s full moon reaches peak illumination on June 21, one day after the summer solstice.

The next meteor shower is the Southern delta Aquariids in July, according to the American Meteor Society.

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