We still have some time until the Fourth of July, but there's another fireworks show coming up — an all-natural one. In late April and early May, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will light up the night sky, dazzling onlookers with up to 50 meteors per hour during its peak. Want to catch the stunning display? Here's everything you need to know.
What is the Eta Aquarid meteor shower?
Each spring, the Earth passes through the debris trail from the iconic Halley's Comet, and as the bits of ice and rock enter our atmosphere, they burn up as meteors. In fact, we pass through the trail of Halley's Comet twice a year — the second crossing creates the Orionid meteor shower in the fall. During the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, the shooting stars seem to emanate from the constellation Aquarius, which is how the event got its name.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, in particular, is known for its super-fast shooting stars that travel upwards of 44 miles per second. But don't worry, you won't necessarily miss them if you blink — they commonly leave glowing trails behind them for a few seconds.
When is the Eta Aquarid meteor shower?
The meteor shower runs from April 19 through May 28, but most of the time, there might only be a handful of shooting stars per night. For the best chance of spotting one, you'll want to look up during the shower's peak, which occurs before dawn on May 5. But you'll likely get a good show a few days before and after the peak, too. Again, the predawn hours are the best time to see meteors during the event.
How can I see the Eta Aquarid meteor shower?
They're best seen from areas closer to the equator — the radiant point from which the shooting stars originate gets lower in the sky as you move farther north, making it a little more difficult to spot meteors from higher latitudes. For prime viewing, you'll need to be in the Southern Hemisphere, but the Eta Aquarids are still visible all over the world.
No matter where you are, the best way to see a meteor shower is to head away from bright lights, let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and look up.
When is the next meteor shower?
The next two minor meteor showers are the Southern Delta Aquarids and the Alpha Capricornids, both of which peak in late July. But the next really big show is August's Perseids, one of the best meteor showers of the year.
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