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Tuesday, 04 May 2010 22:41

Up in the sky: It's the eta Aquarid meteor shower


May 6-7, 2010 is the peak of the eta Aquarid meteor shower for both hemispheres of Earth. Expect to see thirty or more meteors per hour at its maximum just before local sunrise if in the southern hemisphere, and about one-third that many if in the north.

Even thought the eta Aquarid meteor shower will be seen from both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere has the visible advantage over the Northern Hemisphere.

People 'down under' in such countries as Australia and New Zealand will see three times as many as people 'up over' in such countries as the United States and Canada.

The source of the meteors from the eta Aquarids come from Halley's Comet (1P/Halley), which last paid a visit to Earth in 1986.

Even though Halley's Comet won't participate in the eta Aquarids this year, the dust particles it left behind will be the centerpiece of this year's spectacle.

Actually, Halley's Comet is now traveling past the orbit of the planet Uranus.

The eta Aquarid meteor shower is named after Eta Aquarii, a star within the constellation Aquarius.

The star is about 156 light-years from Earth, is a 4th magnitude star, and is approximately 44 times more luminous than the Sun.

Page two tells you where is direct your gaze as you look at the meteors shooting across the early morning sky.

To see the eta Aquarid meteor shower, look toward the eastern sky on the mornings of May 6 and 7, just before dawn.

Between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. local time will be some of the best times to see them'”the meteors in the Northern Hemisphere will be coming up just over the horizon. Expect to see about 10 per hour.

The eta Aquarids will continue to be visible until about May 12.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the radiant of the meteors (the point where they appear to be originating) will be higher in the sky, which is why you'll see more of them'”up to 30 or even maybe 40 per hour.

You'll see the planet Jupiter in the eastern sky, along with the constellation Pegasus.

The Moon will be about 20 degrees from the shower's radiant (the point from which the meteors seem to be originating from). Unfortunately, the Moon's glow (the reflection of sunlight off of its surface) will probably drown out some of the meteors

Page three concludes with additional information, and a couple of other articles that describe the history of the eta Aquarids and talk about this year's meteor shower.

The meteors will be streaking across the sky at about 66 kilometers per second (147,600 miles per hour) and some will be as bright as a 3rd magnitude star. The Leonid meteor shower, seen in November, is the fastest.

To see a sky map of the sky during this time, please go to the SpaceWeather.com webpage 'The eta Aquarid Meteor Shower' and scroll down the page.

To learn more about the eta Aquarid meteor shower, please go to the MeteorShowerOnline.com article 'Observing the Eta Aquarids.'

Sky maps for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere are available from this article.

Find out more about this year's meteor shower at Astronomy's article 'Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks May 6.'




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