This year, the eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower has some competition from the Moonlight. Light reflected from the Moon can wash out the view of fainter meteors. However, you may still be able to see some of the bright “shooting stars”.
The eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower is active from 19th April to 28th May with the peak happening on the 5th May. It’s predicted that there will be up to 50 meteors per hour at the peak of activity. It’s worth seeing this meteor shower in the week or so either side. There can be up to 30 meteors per hour in the off-peak times.
In the mornings leading up to the peak of activity, there will be less moonlight to contend with. So if you can, try viewing on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th of May. Happy stargazing!
When to look: The peak of the meteor shower can be seen from 4:00am, 6th May
Which direction to look: East. Look under Mars which is the bright red coloured star-like object also visible.
For Telescopes and Binoculars
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see a meteor shower. It’s a great time to gather with friends, roll out your favourite picnic rug, pack the drinks and snacks, and start counting how many “shooting stars” you all see! Fingers crossed for a spectacular show!
A meteor shower occurs when our planet Earth passes through the trail of debris left by a comet. The debris can be as small as a grain of sand. When this debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere it burns up causing a bright streak of light to appear in our night sky. When Earth passes through the trail of debris left by a comet, there are lots of pieces that can enter Earth’s atmosphere causing a greater number of meteors (or “shooting stars”).
In the case of the eta-Aquarid Meteor Shower, Earth is passing through the debris left by the well-known Halley’s Comet. Earth also passes through Halley’s Comet trail of debris in October which gives us the Orionids Meteor Shower.
If you happen to see a very bright meteor (often referred to as a “fireball”), a meteorite may have landed on Earth and WA’s Fireballs in the Sky Network would love to know! You can download the app and become a Citizen Scientist by reporting sightings. You might even like to follow the International Meteor Organization! Perhaps you’ll see a fireball like the one seen over Mexico City!
It’s best to view a meteor shower under a dark night sky. Most meteors will be quite faint so darker surroundings will make it easier to see them. You might consider heading out to a dark sky location at one of WA’s Astrotourism Towns. If you’re an astrophotographer, it is an excellent opportunity to image meteors over some of WA’s iconic landscapes. Where are WA’s Astrotourism Towns?
While you’re out counting meteors on the 5th, you’ll also see Mars, Saturn and Jupiter above the eastern horizon.