Stargazers can expect an exciting month of cosmic phenomena, beginning with a meteor shower to mark a lovely start to Cinco de Mayo.
Halley’s Comet won’t swing by Earth again until 2061. However, the people may see pieces of it in the early hours of Tuesday, May 5. With most people caught indoors isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic, May’s celestial events gift a much-needed opportunity to connect with nature.
What is Eta Aquarids?
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks every May as Earth passes through the debris path from Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley). The Orionids meteor shower, which usually shows up in October, also originates from this Comet.
The well-known Halley’s Comet passes by Earth every 76 years. The Comet passed by the planet in 1986. Hence, the next meteor shower will happen on 2061. NASA explained vaporizing debris comes flying into the atmosphere every year at a whopping 148,000 miles per hour when Earth collides with the Comet’s orbit.
Fast meteors, according to NASA, tend to leave glowing dust “trains” behind them, generating magnificent “shooting stars.” It’s named for its radiant, or route of origin, which seems to come back from the constellation Aquarius.
The Eta Aquariids, according to Earth Sky, are especially can be best seen from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, and from the more southerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.
When and where to see the Eta Aquarids
Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office head, said the meteor shower is expected to peak before dawn on May 5. He added the shower is visible in the north and south hemispheres.
Viewing within the Southern Hemisphere is preferable but not essential. The shooting stars regularly appear as “earth grazers” from the northern hemisphere. According to The Weather Channel, stargazers can see between 30 and 40 meteors every hour if the conditions are right.
To get the best experience out of the Eta Aquarids, stargazers are recommended to stay away from the city and as far from light pollution as possible.
In a statement, the Meteor Society said most stargazers n the northern hemisphere have a two-hour window before dawn to view these meteors. According to a report, people near the equator will have the best luck in catching the shower.
The Weather Channel reported the improved air quality because of coronavirus lockdowns could also improve visibility for the meteor shower.
However, the Halley’s Comet takes place at the same time as the full waxing gibbous moon this year, EarthSky reported. Hence, the moon’s brightness may want to make it tough to look the meteors light up the sky.
“That’s why we recommend you try watching for meteors before sunup on May 1, 2, and 3. Fewer meteors will be flying then, but there will be a larger moon-free window between moonset and dawn.”
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