It's easy to get preoccupied with all the things happening here on Earth, but if you find yourself with a moment to spare, the sky is getting ready to put on quite a show. Wondering how to see the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in 2017 and best witness the celestial event? For those interested in a moment of peace and shimmering natural beauty, following a few simple steps will help stargazers get the most from this dazzling meteor shower.
The Eta Aquarid shower is known for its fast moving, bright meteors that streak across the sky in the early pre-dawn hours during the spring months. One of the longest running meteor showers, the Eta Aquarids are usually active from April 19 to May 28 each year; in 2017, they will peak in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6. I always say I'm going to wake up to watch the shower — but this time I'm setting my alarm clock for sure!
The Eta Aquarids happens when the Earth intersects with the stream of debris left by Halley's Comet (which is also the source of October's Orionid meteor shower). The fast moving particles ping off our atmosphere, leaving bright streaks across the sky. While the show is best seen from the Southern hemisphere, according to EarthSky, those in the Northern hemisphere can expect approximately 10 to 20 meteors per hour under the right conditions. The best news? You'll be able to see something, no matter where in the world you are.
So how can you maximize your viewing pleasure this year? Just follow this handy guide and you can make a wish on a shooting star.
1Mark Your Calendar
The Eta Aquarid shower will be active for over a month, but we won't be able to see any real action until Earth dips deeply into the comet stream in early May. Make a note in your calendar device to remind yourself that the shower's climax will fall on May 5 and 6 (though we could see a fair number of shooting stars on May 4 and 7 as well), then start getting excited for the celestial show!
2Set Your Alarm For Way Too Early
Look, I know it's certainly not ideal to wake up at 5 a.m. after long week (unless you've been partying all night long and, um, haven't gone to bed yet) — but to catch the prime of the meteor shower, those early morning hours before dawn are key. Enter your location into Time ANd Date's handy resource to find the best time to watch the sky and check the weather before heading to bed to make sure it will be a clear night. Heavy cloud cover will obstruct the meteor shower, so be sure the conditions are worth waking up before sunrise for.
3Stake Out A Spot Free Of Light Pollution
Artificial lights and light pollution will make the meteors difficult to see, so if you live in a city, the weekend of the shower peak would be the perfect time to book a getaway to the country. The waxing gibbous moon will brighten the sky, but is supposed to set before the shower kicks into full swing. The darker and more open the sky, the better — and whether that means a rooftop or an field to you, it should still be quite the experience.
4Get Comfortable And Watch The Magic Happen
You don't need much to enjoy this meteor shower; just a lawn chair or picnic blanket to sprawl out on and a little luck should be enough. You may want to bring a thermos of hot coffee or tea to keep you awake in the early morning hours. The meteors radiate from the Aquarius constellation, after which the yearly shower is named, however, you don't need to focus on this point in the sky to see the shooting stars. Simply give your eyes 20 minutes to adjust to the dark, and have some patience. Meteors tend to come in spurts so resist the urge to take out your phone during the lulls and enjoy!