THE ETA AQUARIIDS METEOR SHOWER PEAKS TONIGHT AND TOMORROW MORNING
The Eta Aquariids are a meteor shower associated with Halley's Comet.
The shower is visible from about April 21 to about May 20 each year with peak activity on or around May 6. Unlike most major annual meteor showers, there is no sharp peak for this shower, but rather a plateau of good rates that last approximately one week centered on May 7. The meteors we currently see as members of the Eta Aquariid shower separated from Halley’s Comet hundreds of years ago. The current orbit of Halley’s Comet does not pass close enough to the Earth to be a source of meteoric activity.
Although this shower is not as spectacular as the Leonids, it is not an ordinary event. The Eta Aquariids get their name because their radiant appears to lie in the constellation Aquarius, near one of the constellation's brightest stars, Eta Aquarii. The shower peaks at about a rate of around a meteor per minute, although such rates are rarely seen from northern latitudes due to the low altitude of the radiant. During its peak up to 20 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere are expected.
The Eta Aquariids are best viewed in the pre-dawn hours away from the glow of city lights. For northern observers, the radiant of the shower is only above the horizon for the few hours before dawn, and early-rising observers are often rewarded with rates that climb as the radiant rises before sunrise. The shower is best viewed from the equator to 30 degrees south latitude.