Tonight we can also enjoy The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, the most important of all spring and one of the most spectacular of the year.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is the first of two showers that occur each year as a result of Earth runs into a stream of litter left behind by Comet Halley, with the second being the Orionids. The point from where the Eta Aquarid meteors appear to radiate is located within the constellation Aquarius Every year, the earliest Eta Aquarids can be seen around April 21 and they persist until about May 12; however, the number of meteors you are likely to see will be low until around the time of the peak on May 5/6/7.
In the early morning hours of, May 6 & 7 debris from Halley’s Comet will light up the sky in this year’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Here we offer you some tips to enjoy this natural spectacle of spring and to spot as many meteors as possible:
- Observing the show
Skywatchers can expect the best show possible if they go outside around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and gaze somewhat away from the radiant in the Aquarius constellation. Looking away from where the shower is centered shows longer trails of meteors. A typical Aquarid moves at about 66 kilometers per second, according to NASA. Aquarius can be observed from these coordinates:
Right ascension: 23 hours
Declination: -15 degrees
Latitudes: Between 65 and -90 degrees
-What will appear in the sky?
A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate, or originate, from one point in the night sky. These meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories. Most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all of them disintegrate and never hit the Earth’s surface. In the sky, they appear as bright lights flashed, with long strokes and a color between yellow, orange or white. There is no confusion, because they are very showy.
- Where to look?
This meteor shower comes from the constellation of Aquarius, very near the star Eta which gives them the name. However, they can appear anywhere in the sky. Some people will tell you to look towards the radiant, from which the shooting stars will appear to emanate from. For the Eta Aquarids, this is near the constellation Aquarius, which, on the morning of May 6th & 7th, will appear over the southeast horizon right around 3:00 am local time. It’s important to bear in mind; however, that meteors’ trails tend to be shorter the closer they are to the radiant. Your best bet is to probably just look straight up, or to face away from the moon, keeping in mind that meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.
- What is the best time for viewing?
The best time to direct your gaze skyward will be in the hours preceding twilight on the morning of May 6th – though the mornings of May 5th and 7th could make for good viewing, as well. Your best bet is to watch from around 3am local time onward. In other words: you’ll want to stay up late, or wake up very, very early.
- And where I am going?
Ideal spot for any astronomical observation must be dark and away from urban lights. The beaches of castelldefels – Gava, are an ideal place, but the best is to enter in the Garraf natural park. In addition, the horizon must be cleared (especially towards the East), without buildings, mountains or tall trees that cover the tab.
- It will be a good observation?
Check the weather forecast to find out if the place you have chosen, the sky is clear. If there are no clouds you will have luck, since nothing will prevent you to see the meteors. Luckily, the moon waxing will no longer see below the horizon about two o’clock in the morning, so its light does not disturb the show. Once you’re all settled in, give yourself at least 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt to the dark. How do you know if your eyes have adapted? A good rule of thumb says if you can see all seven of the Little Dipper’s main/brightest stars you’ll see plenty of meteors. If you can’t spot all 7 it’s not a big deal, that’s just under optimal conditions.
- Bring the Right Stuff
You don’t need to bring binoculars or telescope. The observation is best at a glance. Bring a reclining lawn chair, a blanket and some pillows — whatever you need to get comfortable and still keep your eyes on the sky.
Bringing hot chocolate and/or coffee is strongly encouraged. Don’t try to stand. Standing and looking up may seem like a decent enough idea, but eventually your neck will get tired, and the second you take your eyes off the sky is invariably when the brightest meteors of the night will go blazing by — it’s like a code that all meteors live by. If you absolutely HAVE to look away, make sure it’s for something awesome like taking a sip of hot chocolate.
- How many meteors will I see?
It is difficult to say. Estimates of meteor counting of the Eta Aquarids are about 70 or 80 meteors per hour (even, with luck, could reach 120), which makes this rain on one of the busiest of the year, along with the Leonids, Perseids or Lyrids.