Halley's Comet will spark Eta Aquarids meteor shower late Monday


With most people stuck inside, isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic, May's celestial events present a much-needed opportunity to connect with nature.

According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids peak during early-May each year and "are known for their speed".

Astronomer Dr Brad Tucker from The Australian National University (ANU) said the streaking-light shows from the Eta Aquariids meteor shower, which are bits of rock and ice from Halley's Comet that will burn up in Earth's atmosphere, would happen from early morning on Wednesday and Thursday. Well, Meburnians and Sydney-siders can look to the sky this evening for one of this year's brightest meteor showers.

Halley's Comet was last seen in 1986.

It is created as the globe passes through the tens of thousands of years old dust trail laid down by Halley's comet, which circles towards Earth every 76 years passed pluto. "The dust slams into the atmosphere at 66 kilometres per second, burning up at roughly 100 kilometres altitude, producing meteors, or shooting stars", Associate Professor Michael Brown, from the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy, said.

Every autumn, the Eta Aquarids meteor shower sets the sky ablaze.

"It's best to look in the opposite direction to where the meteors are coming from (looking away from Aquarius) so that the meteors appear to shoot overhead". It's also a good way to start Cinco de Mayo festivities.

Southern Hemisphere viewers will be treated to between 20 and 40 meteors per hour, but those in the northern hemisphere - especially people living closer to the equator - should still be able to see 10 to 15 meteors per hour. "While you'll be looking eastward, the bright moon will be setting in the west", Gianforte said.

Luckily, being in the southern hemisphere, we get some of the best views in the world.

Astronomers have noted that we could be seeing as many as 50 meteors pass through the sky per hour, and have cautioned that viewers shouldn't get discouraged if they don't see anything straight away, since it can take your eyes almost 20 minutes to adjust to the dark skies.

Be patient, and don't forget a blanket!

The presence of a near-Full Moon this week will also hinder the viewing experience. On May 7, the "Super Flower Moon" arrives just in time for the spring flowers to bloom. It will be the fourth and final supermoon of 2020.



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