What is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?
- Every year, the Earth goes once around the Sun. And every May, the Earth crashes into a cloud of debris left behind by Comet Halley. As the debris burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere, it produces the meteor shower that we call the Eta Aquariids.
- At its peak, the Eta Aquariids can produce 50 meteors per hour. They’re usually bright with long trails but rarely turn into a fireball.
When is the best time to see the Eta Aquariid meteor shower in 2022?
- The best time to see the Eta Aquariids in 2022 is shortly before dawn on Friday 6th May. However, you’ll also see activity on the nights before and after this date.
- Viewing conditions are good for 2022, with the Moon being only 15% full on 6th May.
- The Eta Aquariids will start appearing from 19th April and continue until 28 May. The number of meteors is highest during the week around the peak on 6th May.
How can I see the Eta Aquariid meteor shower from the UK?
- You don’t need any special equipment to see the Eta Aquariid meteor shower from the UK but a bit of preparation is a good idea.
- First, check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be cloudy, then try the days before or after the peak viewing period.
- Next, find a dark (but safe!) place with a clear view away from buildings, trees, and street lights. The Eta Aquariids will appear to be coming from Eastern horizon.
- Also, make sure you turn off all torches and phones for 15 minutes so that your eyes can adjust to the darkness. If you need to use a torch, then consider buying one with a red filter.
- Finally, make sure that you’re warm and comfortable. The Eta Aquariids only appear shortly before dawn, so keep looking East.
If you are planning to take pictures of meteors, Mary McIntyre has some very useful tips for you on how to take better meteor pictures.
Another great way to watch the Lyrids is to buy or build yourself a meteor camera. You’ll be able to create amazing time lapse videos like the one below and join the UK network of 153 meteor cameras. You don’t need any previous experience and it’s a great project to do with your kids or students!
Fun facts about the Eta Aquariid meteor shower
- They’re called the Eta Aquariids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Aquarius. However, they’re actually caused by the Earth crashing into debris left behind by the Comet Halley.
- The Eta Aquariid meteors we see today separated from Comet Halley hundreds of years ago. The current orbit of Comet Halley doesn’t pass close enough to the Earth to produce meteors.
- Unlike most meteor showers, there’s no sharp peak for the Eta Aquariids. Instead, the best viewing period lasts for about a week around 5th May.
- The average speed for an Eta Aquariids meteor is 40 miles per second (that’s 144,000 miles per hour!). The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail but larger meteors can explode as fireballs.