A meteor flashed across the sky over Rio Grande du Sol, Brazil. The shot was captured by professor Carlos Fernando Jung.
Now that the weather is finally warming up, it’s a good weekend to get outside and look for shooting stars. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, often the best shower of the spring, will be at its peak on Sunday morning.
For the prime view, get up early or stay up late, since the “Eta Aquarids are best visible in the hours before dawn,” according to Elizabeth Howell of Space.com.
The shower is of medium brightness, and the darker your skies, the more you’ll see, NASA’s Bill Cooke told Space.com.
There’s good news on the dark sky front: The new moon on Saturday will provide inky black skies for viewing, EarthSky.org said. Thus, “the moon will not interfere with the peak this year,” Cooke said.
Astronomy magazine said that an observer at a dark site can expect to see up to 20 meteors per hour – an average of one every 3 minutes
If you don’t have a chance to look up at the sky Sunday morning, there’s a good chance for meteors during the predawn hours of Saturday and Monday, too, Earthsky.org reported.
Eta Aquarid meteors, also known as the Aquarids, are known for their speed, according to NASA. These meteors are fast – traveling at about 148,000 mph into Earth’s atmosphere.
Meteors shooting across the sky at such speeds can leave glowing “trains” (bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) that last for several seconds to minutes.
So you’re a skywatching newbie: What should you do to see the spectacle? “Give yourself at least an hour of viewing time for watching any meteor shower,” said Bruce McClure of EarthSky.org. “Meteors tend to come in spurts that are interspersed by lulls. Also, it can take as long as 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.
“You need no special equipment to watch a meteor shower, but a little luck always helps.”
The name of the Eta Aquarid meteors comes 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 Aquarids are 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.
Weatherwise, the best viewing conditions are expected across the Pacific Northwest into the southern Plains, where cloud-free conditions will bring uninterrupted views of the meteor showers, AccuWeather said.
Unfortunately, folks in the East likely won’t be able to see this year’s Eta Aquarids due to a far-reaching storm that’s spreading clouds and rain across the region.
Clouds and spotty showers may also hinder stargazers across the northern Plains and California, according to AccuWeather.
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