Every time our planet twirls through the remnants of the most famous comet in history, dazzling meteor showers streak the skies.
This week is no exception. Earth is in the midst of colliding with the debris left behind by Halley's Comet, producing spectacular meteor showers called the Eta Aquarids.
It only happens twice every year. The first display began on April 19. It will peak on the night of May 5 and will end on the last week of this month.
How To Watch The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower
Stargazers living in the Southern Hemisphere will be lucky enough to see the meteors dash through the skies at about 30 to 40 meteors per hour.
On the opposite side of the world, Northern Hemisphere stargazers will be able to view about 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
Prime time viewing of the meteor showers will be during the peak on May 5 to May 7. On May 6, the new moon will provide the darkest skies, setting the perfect backdrop for the spectacle.
Here's what you can do to watch the meteor shower:
1. Camp out in a safe place one or two hours before twilight, the time our planet turns into the meteor stream.
2. Telescopes or expensive equipment are not necessary to watch the meteors, but you do need to make sure you're watching from a place where there are clear, visible skies.
3. Patience can do wonders. Make sure to carry a lot of those. EarthSky says meteors tend to come in spurts, and are followed by lulls.
4. Find a remote, dark spot away from light pollution. It could take your eyes as long as 20 minutes to adjust to the dark.
5. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show.
6. If you won't be able to watch the meteor shower, online observatory Slooh is offering a live broadcast of the Eta Aquarids from the Canary Islands. Astronomers from the observatory will talk about the meteor shower and answer questions.
What You Need To Know About The Eta Aquarids
The Eta Aquarids is known as one of the most rapid meteor showers that move through the skies. Its specks move at about 148,000 miles per hour (238,182 kilometers per hour).
NASA Astronomer Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office says although the meteors are no bigger than a sandgrain, they can pack a punch equal to a .357 caliber bullet. If you blink, you'll surely miss them.
"That's why they leave these brilliant streaks in the atmosphere," said Cooke. "They have a lot of energy."
When a comet moves too close to the sun, heat boils the icy surface, producing ice and dust particles. This forms the comet's tail as it points away from the sun.
Earth passes through the comet's tail and gravity attracts the ice and dust particles. The debris rubs against air molecules in our atmosphere, igniting the particles and causing them to streak. This results in shooting stars.
Halley's Comet has not passed by Earth since 1986 as it only appears every 76 years, but you can still watch the second display of its remnants in October during the Orionid meteor shower.
Cooke recommended making the most of the annual meteor showers because Halley's Comet will make its next visit in 2061.
Watch the Slooh livestream (May 5, 8 PM EST) below.