Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower This Week Digital composite of 50 photographs of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower.taken over a period of 25 minutes. (Danny Lawson/PA Wire URN:59551600 (Press Association via AP Images)
Tuesday, 04 May 2021 06:00 PM
In almost perfect sync with Star Wars Day this year — "May the Fourth Be With You" — the Eta Aquariid meteor shower is set to dazzle skygazers in the immediate future in this very galaxy — in this very solar system and planet to be precise.
The greatest number of meteors can be seen Wednesday morning, though those who woke up early Tuesday could have caught a few as well. And there should be a few visible on Thursday morning, too, according to EarthSky.
The meteors are pieces of dust and ice that flare up as they pass through Earth's atmosphere, and those seen in the Eta Aquariid are from the famous Halley's Comet. The same dust trail produced the Orionids meteor shower in October, NASA notes.
Though the Southern Hemisphere has the best viewing, the meteors can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the United States, it is best to look at the southernmost portion of the sky, about an hour or two before morning twilight. About 10 meteors an hour can be expected.
No special equipment is needed, but viewers should give themselves about 20 minutes to allow their eyes to adapt to the darkness.
Otherwise, just bring a comfortable lawn chair and relax.
This year, the moonlight could give some trouble seeing the streaks of light from the meteors passing through the sky, though EarthSky said the waning moon could also provide something to see while awaiting the meteors, which often come in bursts.
"Meteor watching is a lot like fishing," the website noted. "Sometimes you catch a good number of them, and sometimes you don’t."
Some meteors can be seen in late evening, the website notes, and leave longer streaks, but more are visible in the early morning leaving shorter streaks.
The Eta Aquariid gets its name because most of the meteors appear to originate from a point in front of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. Though the meteors can streak in all directions, they all seem to originate from that spot.
If you are familiar with the constellations, you can find the Eta Aquarii as one of four stars making up the Y-shaped Water Jar in the northern part of Aquarius.