Science Space

Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks tonight: Watch it live, right here

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks tonight, and you can watch it live right here. 

Beginning at 5 p.m. PDT, the astronomy website Slooh.com will live stream a view of the meteor shower with a low-light telescope stationed in the Canary Islands off the western coast of Africa.

Those who would like to watch the shower on their own should plan to set their alarm clocks for just a few hours before dawn local time. According to EarthSky.org, the best viewing will be between 3 a.m. and sunrise on Wednesday morning, no matter where you live. 

I might add, however, that this year's Eta Aquarid might be a good one to watch via your laptop or tablet screen. We've got a fairly bright waning gibbous moon tonight (97% illuminated), and the moonlight could drown out all but the brightest of the meteors.

This annual meteor shower occurs each year in May when the Earth hurdles through a cloud of debris left in the wake of Halley's comet. Bits of dust from the comet's previous spins around the sun slam into the Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 40 miles per second, creating streaks of light across the sky.

This year, observers in the Northern Hemisphere can expect to see about 30 meteors per hour. In the Southern Hemisphere, the number of potentially visible meteors could be double that.

Halley's comet made its most recent swing by Earth in 1986. It is currently about 3 billion miles away from our planet, speeding through the outer solar system somewhere around the orbit of Uranus, according to Spaceweather.com

Although the comet won't return to our night sky until 2061, we are reminded of it twice a year when our planet hurdles through its dust in October for the Orionid meteor shower, and again in May for the Eta Aquarid.

Happy sky-watching!

Science rules! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook

 

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