northanger (northanger) wrote,
northanger
northanger

eta aquarids

AQ 215 = ANGELIC INDEX = AUTOPOETIC = COSMIC RAYS = ETA AQUARIDS = HARI KRISHNA = IN MEDIAS RES = MEDIA PUNDIT = POLLUTION = PRESENTLY = PROJECTION = RECTIFICANDO = SARKON TAGS = SEVEN KINGS = SILVER CORD = SYNATIVES = THE HAND OF GOD = THIRTY-ONE = TIME TRAVEL

AQ 31 = AL = HE = ID = LA = V

The eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on May 5th and 6th. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the hours before local sunrise on both days.

This is mainly a southern hemisphere shower, but northern observers can see it, too. In the United States, for example, observers far from city lights might see 5 to 10 meteors per hour. In Australia or South America, rates are better, between 15 and 60 meteors per hour.

This year (2005) the eta Aquarid meteors will be streaming from a point in the sky coincidentally close to Mars. The red planet, which is approaching Earth for a close encounter in October 2005, is already eye-catching. Northern observers, step outside before sunrise, face east, and this is what you'll see.

Eta Aquarid meteors come from the most famous comet of all: Halley's Comet. Our planet passes close to the orbit of Halley's Comet twice a year. Although the comet itself is very far away [diagram] tiny pieces of Halley are still moving through the inner solar system. They're leftovers from the comet's many close encounters with the Sun. Each time Halley returns (every 76 years) solar heating evaporates about 6 meters of ice and rock from its nucleus! Debris particles called meteoroids, usually no bigger than grains of sand, gradually spread along the comet's orbit forming an elongated stream of space dust. Earth passes through the debris stream once in May and again in October.

The eta Aquarids are named after a star in the constellation Aquarius (The Electronic Sky). The star has nothing to do with the meteor shower except that the shower's radiant happens to lie nearby. (The radiant of a meteor shower is a point in the sky from which the meteors appear to stream.) The eta Aquarid's sister shower in October is called the Orionids, after the constellation Orion. {more}

BONUS: If you wake up early to look for eta Aquarid meteors, you'll also see the bright planet Mars. {spaceweather.com}

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