Just two weeks after the Lyrids meteor shower, the Eta Aquariid meteor shower shoots by. The meteor shower – usually active every year between 19 April and 28 May – will peak during the morning hours of 5 and 6 May.
According to the Bronberg Weather Stationin Pretoria, viewing the meteor shower is as simple as going outside between 3:00 and 5:00, finding a dark spot and looking east towards Aquarius constellation.
What is the Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower?
The Eta Aquariids meteor streams are groups of meteoriods which originates from the dust grains ejected by Halley’s Comet (Comet 1P Halley.)
The meteoroids (small dust grains) are distributed around the comet’s orbit. We get to see the meteors every time Earth passes through that stream of dust particles, or the debris left behind by the comet.
These pieces enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. They create the meteor shower, or shooting stars, as we often refer to them. The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is known for producing the most intense meteor streams.
Halley’s Comet, officially known as 1P/Halley, was observed by Edmond Halley in 1682. It only passes through our region every 75 years. The last perihelion was in February 1986 and the next perihelion will be in 2061.
When is the best time to view the Eta Aquariid meteor shower
Between 3:00 and dawn on 6 May would be the best time to view. On a clear night, you can expect to see 40 streaks an hour, but perhaps even more during the peak times. Keep looking east!
While the Lyrids meteor shower was mostly visible to those in the northern hemisphere, us southern hemisphere folks are in the good seats for the Eta Aquariids meteor shower.
However, the visibility of the meteor shower also depends on the weather and light pollution. According to Accuweather, Johannesburg will have clear skies all the way, while Cape Town will be partly cloudly.
The best way to view the Eta Aquariid meteor shower
Getting away from the city and light pollution will provide a better view. If you have a telescope, go ahead and use it. But the meteor shower will be visible to the naked eye.
Take a blanket or chair with so you can view the spectacular show in comfort. Once you’re settled in, look east near the constelation of Aquarius for the eta Aquariids radiant.
But don’t look directly at the Lyra constellation, as it would make the meteors appear to have short tails. Instead, look at the sky as a whole. The meteors will then be more likely to appear with a long tail.