This year, viewing of the eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower will be limited by the Moon.
The eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower is active from 19th April to 28th May with the peak happening on 6th May. It’s predicted that there will be up to 30 meteors per hour at the peak of activity. It’s worth trying to see this meteor shower on the nights either side.
When to look: The peak of the meteor shower can be seen from the evening of 6th May to the early morning of 7th May.
Which direction to look: Look near to Saturn in the east for the radiant point of this meteor shower.
Do I Need a Telescope to see a Meteor Shower?
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!
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? Fingers crossed for a spectacular show!
What is a meteor shower?
Meteors are caused by debris entering Earth’s atmosphere. The debris can be as small as a grain of sand which burns up in the atmosphere and causes a bright streak of light to appear briefly in our night sky. The debris that causes a meteor can be travelling between 11 to 73 km/second.
A meteor shower is a time when you see lots of “shooting stars”. They are the result of Earth passing through the trail of debris left by a comet or other object that has come into our Solar System and orbited around the Sun.
The eta-Aquarid Meteor Shower is a result of Earth 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.
What’s the Moon phase and how does it affect viewing?
During the Eta-Aquarids this year, the Moon will be high in the sky. This means that all but the very brightest meteors will be washed out by the Moon’s brightness. If you are patient, there should still be some bright meteors however.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation where the “shooting stars” appear to be coming from. In the case of the eta-Aquarid Meteor Shower, the meteors come from the direction of the constellation of Aquarius. If you have a handy smart phone app that helps you identify objects in the night sky, search for Aquarius, and you’ll be looking in the right location.
You might like to…
Become a Citizen Scientist and report meteor sightings! If you happen to see a very bright meteor (often referred to as a “fireball”), WA’s Fireballs in the Sky team based at Curtin University would love to know! Download the Fireballs in the Sky App and keep your eyes peeled!