Eta Aquarids meteor shower 2019

Eta Aquarids are a major annual meteor shower, like most meteors the bright streaks of light are created as dust and debris particles burn up as the enter our atmosphere, as friction causes them to heat up and ultimately burn out.

The dust / debris comes from the tail of a comet. This comet is the famous Halley’s Comet that approaches the Earth on a 75 year cycle on a long orbit around the Sun, last passing in 1986 and due again in 2061. Although the Comet has a long periodicity and few get to see it twice, the Earth passes through its tail on a yearly frequency.

This celestial firework show is obviously dependent on a clear sky. This year has the potential to be a good display as the Moon is going to be a Waxing Crescent only a couple of days old at the showers peak, allowing better visibility of fainter meteors.

The shower started on April 19th and can be observable till May 28th 2019. The radiant point as the name suggests is from the Constellation of Aquarius specifically appearing from the direction of the bright star Eta Aquarii, The peak or maximum meteors per hour is expected at 04.00.00 on the morning of May 7th 2019 from UK, Predictions vary but estimates of 20, 40 to 60 meteors an hour have been speculated. The darker your location the more you could see.

If you want to see the shower find the darkest site available to you with no distracting lights to spoil your night vision, no torches or flash photograph. A red light source to help you find your safe path could be useful. Then look up, to avoid neck cramps people use deckchairs or similar, with a nice warm blanket.

Astronomers look forward to this shower every year, many tying to spot and photograph the most spectacular. As well as visual observations and due to the scientific importance on learning as much as possible about meteors, which may help to identify Near earth objects and predict future hazards, Organisation like UK Meteor Monitoring Network “UKMON” members have CCTV cameras pointing skyward at multiple locations across the country capturing videos of Meteors, with data to determine location, track, speed and source confirming with analysis source and orbit. Back tracking to confirm known safe originating bodies {in this case Halley’s Comet” or something new and unknown with the potential for harm.

Data is shared with other organisation here and in Europe for mutual study and benefit. Only by sharing data and comparing and triangulating comparable data can singular observations be confirmed and results become ratified. Particular emphasis can be placed on meteors from unknown originating bodies, if several Sporadic meteors radiate from the same / similar point, it is possible to identify a currently unidentified source, a “new” Comet or Asteroid. Tracking its orbit and future path can add it to the growing watch list of potentially harmful objects.

So heads up enjoy the show, if you cant make it outside the UKMON website has a live display, participating observing stations share detections in real time, shown as stacked images which produce an image of the meteor streak. Every new observation pushes back the previous ones. An ever changing up to date status. If predictions are correct then ther will be plenty to see, so wether your out seeing them live or seeing the on the web enjpoy this years Eta Aquarids.

Author : John Young Project Coordinator Meteor Detection at Birmingham Astronomical Society a member of UKMON.