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Look Up for Halley’s Comet Shower this Weekend

Halley's comet glides across the starry skies back  in March 1986. Credit: NASA

Halley’s comet glides across the starry skies back in March 1986, shedding particles that will eventually approach Earth as Eta Aquarid meteors. Credit: NASA

 

Halley’s Comet won’t swing by Earth for another  48 years, but you won’t have to wait that long to watch bits of the iconic comet zip across our skies. That’s because this weekend Earth smashes into a stream of material, known as the Eta Aquarid meteors,  shed from the speedy iceberg in years past. (Related: Ancient Greeks Made First Halley’s Comet Sighting?)

Coming through the inner solar system every 76 years, Halley melts a bit from the heat of the sun and sheds some pounds as gas, dust, and rocks break off.  All this material then gets deposited in clouds of debris which follow the same orbit as the comet.

The result of this cosmic diet the comet undergoes is an annual shooting-star show, which this year is set to peak in the predawn hours of May 5, with rates of 10 to 50 meteors an hour – depending on local sky conditions.  Our planet plows through the densest part of Halley’s debris cloud Saturday night into Monday morning.

While not as spectacular as its August cousin, the Perseids, the cool factor for sky-watchers is that all those modest shooting stars are bits of debris from Halley’s Comet. One other shower – the Orionids in October – shares the same royal pedigree. (Related: See ‘Postcards’ from Halley’s Comet)

Eta Quarids peak in the early morning hours of Monday radiating out from it's nakesake constellation. Credit: Courtesy of Starry Night Software/Andrew Fazekas
Eta Aquarids peak in the early morning hours of Monday radiating out from it’s namesake constellation. Credit: Courtesy of Starry Night Software/Andrew Fazekas

 

No telescopes or binoculars required to enjoy the show – just unaided eyes so that you can soak in as much of the overhead skies. The meteors will appear to radiate out from the constellation Aquarius – rising in the southeast around 3 am local time. Aquarids are known to be fast and bright, and because the waning crescent moon rises only around morning twilight,  skywatchers stuck in light polluted suburbs should be able to catch at least a dozen per hour early Sunday morning. Best views will be from the Southern Hemisphere with meteor counts decreasing as you head into the Northern Hemisphere – by mid northern latitudes Aquarids tend to be falling at a trickle.

Halley’s last paid a visit back in 1986 and won’t return until 2061, but with  some clear skies and patience, we can still marvel at its tiny but flashy, cosmic offspring this weekend.

Comments

  1. Dhairya
    Faridabad
    March 9, 9:52 am

    Can the meteor be seen in faridabad

  2. Sarah Arnold
    Hattiesburg, Ms
    January 3, 2:01 pm

    Here in Hattiesburg you don’t see a lot of stars.

  3. rohit
    pathankot
    May 10, 2013, 9:36 am

    vast very vast

  4. Kyle Lohnes
    apple valley
    May 5, 2013, 6:13 pm

    Can we see the shower from nova scotia? If so what time?

  5. liciayurika
    indonesia
    May 5, 2013, 5:27 pm

    I woke up at 4am and nothing happen :(

  6. craig steiger
    grass valley
    May 5, 2013, 1:33 pm

    couldn’t we arrange for the meteor shower to appear at a more reasonable hour?

  7. ben
    israel
    May 5, 2013, 12:59 pm

    can i see it in Israel, and if so at what time

  8. colin
    china
    May 5, 2013, 10:45 am

    star

  9. Brenda Villamor Miranda
    Manila Philipines
    May 5, 2013, 3:54 am

    Please tell us what is the manila time equivalent to your May 6, 4am?

    Thank you very much,

    Brendz

  10. kesia henry
    south africa , gauteng
    May 5, 2013, 1:42 am

    I think that is one of the most beatific thing I’ve seen :)

  11. Sheila A.
    Malaysia
    May 4, 2013, 8:52 pm

    By the time I read, I had already miss the date/time since Malaysia is so many hours ahead of the States. I wish they’d these type of articles a couple of days before it happens for people like us.

  12. Scott Meese
    May 4, 2013, 8:52 pm

    Dad – Thought you might like to know about this! H

  13. Lexi Pizzano
    United States
    May 4, 2013, 8:26 pm

    Is there any chance of seeing anything from Long Island, New York? A few other articles said not to even bother if you’re in New York. Also, where can I go to see it? Any state parks open for the event?

  14. Daniel Lindsäth
    Sweden
    May 4, 2013, 8:21 pm

    “3 am local time” means the local time wherever you are, as the local time determines which direction the sky is pointing at where you are.

  15. Kathie Brobeck
    Lincoln, MA USA
    May 4, 2013, 7:48 pm

    without timings you’re not very useful! — come on is 3 am GMT or what?

  16. Joseph Caraway
    Akron, Ohio
    May 4, 2013, 7:27 pm

    Why is local time so difficult to understand? 3 am is 3 am regardless of which time zone you are in.

  17. Adrenaline
    Lithuania
    May 4, 2013, 5:05 pm

    Hi, can anyone tell me, what time (GMT+2) will this event be visible in Lithuania?

  18. Kaushal Sindwani
    Faridabad, India
    May 4, 2013, 4:52 pm

    At what time (Indian time) will i be able to see this wonder?? Is it even visible from Faridabad/Delhi??
    Thanks :)

  19. Vasco Ferreira
    Espinho, Portugal
    May 4, 2013, 4:51 pm

    The time you mention, 4 AM, is from where? I’m in Greenwich time frame and would like to know what time will the show be on here. Thanks

  20. grisselle negron
    hamden,ct
    May 4, 2013, 10:51 am

    this morning around 3:20 or so. i was praying in my bathroom looking through my window and i saw something i have never seen. it was scary at the moment but i keep looking. it was long and like golden of color and then it desappeared.

  21. shawn Thomas
    May 4, 2013, 7:20 am

    I wonder what his local time is? Nice reporting DA

  22. Fall of a Thousand Suns
    May 4, 2013, 3:48 am

    Check out drawings and etchings of the Leonids in 1833. They are shocking. It’s not hard to understand how people could have viewed them as a religious sign.

    For more on comets take a look at http://www.fallofathousandsuns.com/comets.html