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Halley's Comet Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower To Light Up Skies Very Early On May 6: Interesting Facts About This Celestial Event

6 May 2017, 6:56 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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The Eta Aquarid meteor shower from Halley's Comet is expected to peak this weekend. Here are some facts you may want to know about the celestial event.   ( NASA-JPL | Caltech )

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to light up the skies just before dawn on Saturday, May 6. Before you let your eyes marvel at the celestial beauty, here are some interesting facts you may want to know about Eta Aquarid.

The Basics

Meteors and meteorites are usually named after the star or constellation where the meteors appear to come from, and Eta Aquarid is no different. Yes, you guessed it, Eta Aquarid was named after the Aquarius constellation because it is from the water bearer constellation that the meteors appear to radiate from.

This is also the best guide for stargazers because if you live in the Northern hemisphere, where the meteors are a little less frequent at about 10 meteors per hour at its peak compared to the 50 meteors per hour at the Southern hemisphere, it would be easiest to first locate Aquarius and, from there, begin your stargazing evening.

To be more specific, the meteor shower will appear to come from the area of the star Eta Aquarii, which is the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation. If you're having a hard time finding it, Eta Aquarii is one of the four stars at the top of the "water jar."

Speedy Meteors

Eta Aquarid's meteors are known for their speed. At about 148,000 mph (66 km/s), Eta Aquarid is fast enough to leave a glowing train of light behind each meteor that can last from several seconds to a few minutes.

Comet Of Origin

Halley's Comet takes 76 years just to orbit the sun once. It's where the Eta Aquarid meteor shower comes from, when the Earth passes through its debris and its leftover particles collide with the planet's atmosphere.

1P/Halley does not just leave us with the Eta Aquarid this May, but it could also give stargazers the chance to view the Orionids when its leftover dust and particles collide with our atmosphere in October.

If you're curious, Comet Halley, named after its discoverer Edmund Halley in 1705, will not enter the inner solar system again until the year 2061.

Other meteor showers that come from comets include Leonids from Tempel-Tuttle, and Taurids from the comet Encke.

How To Watch

Anyone who would want to witness the meteor shower may want to stay up late or wake up just a little bit earlier than usual. Eta Aquarid is expected to be at its peak starting 10 p.m. on Friday, May 5 and until just before dawn on Saturday, May 6.

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