Is there anything more magical than a meteor shower? If you fall firmly in the "No, there most certainly is not" camp, then the next question you should be asking yourself, then, is, "When is the Eta Aquarid Meteor shower in 2017?" I mean, there's a reason why so many myths and legends and tokens of good luck are centered around the appearance of a falling star — and this year, you're actually getting a double dose at around the same time. Heck, and yes.
I took Astronomy in college thinking, in my foolish, 18-year-old brain, that I would become That Cool Girl At Parties Who Can Point Out All The Constellations And Stuff — which, as it turns out, is not a media trope for a reason. If you know anything about Astronomy, you've already gotten the punchline to the joke: It's mostly physics and math and very little actual stargazing. Want to get familiar with the stars? Do it on your own time. Which is what I did. After taking that Astronomy 101 course pass-fail.
Receiving guidance from the stars, meanwhile, is an old-school practice — like, beginning-of-modern humanity old-school. The astrology most of us in the United States are familiar with, for example, was first developed by the Babylonians over 2,000 years ago in Mesopotamia; Stonehenge, which dates to a casual 2,500 B.C.E., indicates its creators held sophisticated mathematical and astronomical knowledge.
Meteors, which many recognize as "shooting stars" or "falling stars," originate as leftover comet particles and bits from asteroids. As they come in contact with the Earth's atmosphere, they disintegrate in the most extra of ways: Fiery, colorful streaks.
The Eta Aquarids are one of two meteor showers created from the debris of Halley's Comet (the second, the Orionids, peak in late October). It's a long-running celestial event — this year, it's occurring from April 19 to May 28 — and the meteors themselves are known for their speed, traveling at 66 kilometers per second into Earth's atmosphere, according to NASA.
In 2017, the shower will begin on April 19, but won't peak until early May, specifically May 5 and 6. At its climax, you may be able to catch 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
What's wonderful about this prolific meteor shower is its global visibility. Radiating from the Aquarius constellation (the shower itself is named after the brightest star in the constellation, Eta Aquarii), the meteors can be seen from just about anywhere. For the best watch times for your specific location, check out Time and Date's handy resources.
But since it's 2017 and the world is actively ablaze, maybe something, somewhere, thought, "Hey, you know what? These folks could use a little bit more celestial magic than usual," and caused not one, but two meteor showers to occur simultaneously this spring. From April 16 to 25, the Lyrids meteor shower, the oldest known meteor shower, will be gracing the skies with its presence as well.
The best chance you have at catching a glimpse and make a wish is early morning, shortly before dawn. Other tips? Pick a spot as far away from artificial lights as possible, and work on your patience. It's a waiting person's game.