Looking Up

When & How To Watch May's Powerful Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower

Mark your calendars for May 6, grab a blanket, and head out just after dawn to see the spectacular meteor shower.

Originally Published: 
Man with dog looking at Perseid Meteor Shower at lake Bled

There’s nothing quite like a good meteor shower with the family. Everyone curling up in a sleeping bag on a deck or in the yard, looking up, and scanning the skies for fireworks is a special kind of concentrated bonding — a little bit of awe, a lot of shared points and gasps. It’s the stuff of memories. In a few weeks — May 6 to be exact — be sure to get out the sleeping bag and taking in the Eta Aquarrids as they light up our sky.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Are The Eta Aquariids?

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower, named after the brightest star in the constellation Eta Aquarii, is one of two meteor showers that come from Comet Halley's debris. The comet Halley does a full orbit around the Sun every 76 years, and “the last time casual observers saw comet Halley was in 1986,” NASA explains. “Comet Halley will not enter the inner solar system again until 2061.”

While we can’t see Comet Halley for nearly 40 more years, the comet does produce a lot of debris, which we know as the Eta Aquraiids meteor shower, and we do get to see that — and it’s more spectacular than it sounds.

This shower is renowned for its rapid speed and lengthy streaks of shooting stars that are visible to the naked eye without the need for telescopes or other equipment, making it a favorite among parents and kids who love watching meteor showers.

When Is The Eta Aquariids Happening?

The meteor shower runs from April 15 to May 27. However, the day for peek viewing will be May 6, 2023, according to EarthSky.

The Full Moon will fall at the peak of the 2023 Eta Aquariid shower. If you want to try watching in moonlight, try the mornings of May 5, 6, and 7, 2023, in the hours before dawn,” EarthSky writes.

“The peak of this shower stretches out over several days,” the site explains. “So you can expect elevated numbers of meteors a few days before and after the peak time … albeit in moonlight.”

EarthSky also notes that you could be expected to see “10 to 20 meteors per hour under a dark sky, with no moon, when the radiant is high in the sky” if you are in the southern half of the United States.

“Farther south – at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere – you might see two to three times that number.”

How Can I Watch The Eta Aquariids?

The Eta Aquariids isn’t the most spectacular meteor shower, but several things make it an ideal one to check out with the kids. Not only will the weather start to get warmer, but it’s also not going to be too hot, generally, to want to be outside at night. The meteor shower is also pretty easy to view without needing any equipment.

You’ll have the best chance of seeing meteors flying through the sky if you head out just after dawn to an area outside of city lights, and if the moon isn’t super bright that evening, all the better. Unfortunately, according to EarthSky, Moonlight will obscure the 2023 Eta Aquariids, but that doesn’t mean you and the kids shouldn’t head to give it a try.

The best way to view the shower is to lie on your back and look up. And have some patience.

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