Look up, ladies and gentlemen – a meteor shower is on its way, and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might get to see a rather spectacular show.
Known as the Eta Aquariids – named after their apparent radiation from the star Eta Aquarii – they are actually fragments of Halley’s Comet, which at present is at the far end of its highly elliptical orbit 5.1 billion kilometers (3.2 billion miles) from Earth, beyond the orbit of Neptune.
The annually recurring shower is already taking place, as it has been since mid-April, but it will peak on the night of May 5/the pre-dawn morning of May 6. You’ll be able to see 25-30 meteors per hour burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, if you’re lucky with the weather.
The best place to see it will be anywhere across the tropical latitudes, but skywatchers a bit further north will still see a handful of meteors streaking across the night. If you’re based in the US, Universe Today suggests that you “find as dark a place as possible with an open view to the east and south.”
“Since twilight starts about an hour and three-quarters before your local sunrise, plan to be out watching an hour before that or around 3:30 a.m.,” they explain.
If you’re wondering when you can see Halley’s Comet itself again, then we’re afraid you’ll have to wait until 2061 to spy it.