It's that time of the year again when the Eta Aquarid meteor shower graces the night sky.
Meteor showers are perennial treats, as they occur every month, but the Eta Aquarid meteor shower this early May is one of the few major meteor showers to watch out for, along with the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December to name a few.
The Eta Aquarids -which will peak on Tuesday morning, May 6 and can be viewed as early as Monday, May 5 before dawn looms at the eastern sky- is born out of the trails of the famous Halley's Comet that last visited the inner solar system in 1986.
It may take a while for the comet to swing by our midst again, as it is expected to pay a visit the summer of 2061, but its dusty trail or "cosmic litter," is ironically fated to annually give spectaculars shows back in Earth.
Comets such as the one eponymous to Edmond Halley, who first recognized and computed its orbit, are made up of cold rocks. When they orbit near the Sun, the heat fizzles them out, leaving behind debris on its orbital path.
Our planet plows through the comet's orbit every year, crossing the same orbit of the comet in May and October, and the litter from the comet that remained suspended in space are the ones responsible for the Eta Aquarids in May. In October, Halley's Comet is the harbinger of another major meteor shower in October-the Orionids.
For a habitual meteor shower watcher, it is easy to spot where to look for the Eta Aquarids in the night sky. Every meteor shower originates from what astronomers and night sky observers call as radiant point and these points may vary. In the case of the Eta Aquarids, it comes from Water Jar asterism, a part of the Aquarius constellation in the East.
An asterism is a part of the constellation that is easily recognizable to the human eye and one of the very well-known asterisms is the Big Dipper of the Ursa Major constellation.
Folks in the southern hemisphere get the front seat in the Eta Aquarids meteor shower show. Thanks to the sunrises that begin late in the southern hemisphere, the radiant is given more chance to rise higher in the Eastern sky. For the Southerners, expect around 30 meteors whizzing in the night sky that will begin at around 1:40 a.m. local time.
It would be a bleak night for the Northerners, as they would only catch a measly 10 meteors per hour. Despite this, clear skies will prevail as the waxing moon it expected to set long before the amazing night show begins.