Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

It’s time for another meteor shower! The Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

The Eta Aquarids is one of the two meteor showers that originated from the dust released by Comet Halley. The other one is the Orionids, which occurs in October.

Why Eta Aquarids and not just Aquarids, like the Perseids or Leonids? This is because there is more than one meteor shower in Aquarius, so each of the meteor shower is named after the bright star nearest to its radiant. One of them other than Eta Aquarids is the Delta Aquarids, which occurs between mid-July to mid-August.

Every year, Eta Aquarids is visible between April 21 and May 12 and peak on May 5/6. This year is no exception. Wake up early on next Monday morning when this annual meteor shower reaches its maximum activity.

With the Moon out of the way, we can expect to see more meteors. Additional bonus: astronomers think that this year Eta Aquarids could produce more than twice the usual number of meteors. Usually the ZHR is about 30 meteors per hour, but this year the rate could reach 70.

The increase in the shower’s rates may be due to Jupiter. Studies suggest that the rate rise and fall in a 12-year cycle, about the same time it takes for Jupiter to orbit the Sun once. Jupiter, with its strong gravitational pull, may affect the dust streams every time is passes the Eta Aquarid track, sending extra dust particle to Earth.

EtaAquarid radiant. Click to enlarge

The Eta Aquarids radiant rises to reasonable height about 4:00 am, but you can start observing the shower anytime before that. Click on image for larger star chart.

Eta Aquarids often produces fast and bright meteors. Averagely, the meteors enter the atmosphere at a whopping 67 km/s. About 30% of the meteors leave behind dimly glowing trails called persistent trains. Some can be seen for as long as a minute.

To observed, find a group of at least 5 people, go to a safe, dark and unobstructed site, away from city light or any man-made light polluter. The darker the site, the more dimmer meteors is going to be visible (although in the end the number of meteor visible is strongly dependent on the weather).

Remember, you don’t need any equipment such as telescope to see meteors. All you need is just your naked eyes, which provide you the widest field possible.

To make yourself comfortable, bring along mat to lie down. Lying down flat on the ground is the best position so that we can cover the maximum area of the sky. This position is a bit “dangerous” though, because this is also the best position to fall asleep and the next thing you know might be the Sun rising. Try chit-chatting with friends, this will help to keep you awake, but make sure that your eyes are glue to the sky; you won’t want to miss the show.

Sometime it may be cold in the middle of the night, so a jacket may come in handy. Better still if you can prepare some food and drinks to fill up your empty stomach during the night. Mosquito repellent may also be something useful to bring along.

Hopefully the weather will be fine. I doubt it, however… I can’t even recall when was the last time I see a “clear” moon…

Anyway, clear skies to everyone out there!

To learn more about meteor and meteor shower, go to Meteor Shower ABC.


~ by thChieh on May 3, 2008.

One Response to “Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower”

  1. I had the opportunity to visit our local observatory the other day. We got to talking about the next meteor shower, so I am ready for this one.

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