The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower:Halley’s Comet Debris Trail


Halley's Comet

Halley's Comet

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on May 6.  This meteor shower is visible from late April to early May and while it is not one of the most spectacular shows, it has an interesting origin. 

The Eta Aquarids are the result of the Earth passing through the debris trail left by Halley’s Comet.  Halley’s Comet is one of the best known short period comets.  It visits the Earth every 76 years.  The comet appeared last in 1986 and will be seen again in mid 2061.  While other comets are brighter and more interesting, they may only appear once every thousand years!  Halley’s is one of the few comets that can be seen twice in a lifetime.

Halley's Comet Orbit

Halley's Comet Orbit

The Eta Aquarids get their name because they appear to originate in the constellation Aquarius near one of the brightest stars, Eta Aquarii.  We may see as many as 20 to 30 meteors an hour this year and the best viewing time will be the early morning hours when North America is facing the debris trail.  Typical Eta Aquarid meteors are about as bright as a third magnitude star.

Happy viewing and let us know if you see any!



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