The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower has arrived, with the best viewing slated for early Tuesday morning.
The centuries-old Eta Aquarid meteor shower is one of two annual showers caused by the famed Halley’s Comet. While Halley only makes an appearance every 75 to 76 years, Earth passes through debris from the comet twice a year -- from April to May, and again in October and November.
The result is a spectacular meteor shower that can be seen with the naked eye. Astronomers at the space flight center in Huntsville, Ala., said as many as 30 meteors per hour could be visible in the Northern Hemisphere, with double that in the Southern Hemisphere.
"What makes this shower somewhat special is that the meteors stem from the most famous comet in all of history, Comet Halley," astronomer Bob Berman, who will provide audio commentary during the Eta Aquarid live stream, said in a statement. "As Halley goes around the sun in its 76-year orbit, pieces of it, little chunks of ice, slough off the comet and we intersect that every year around this time, in early May."
This year’s April-May shower is expected to peak late Monday night and into early Tuesday morning. NASA’s live video feed will begin on Monday around 9 p.m. EDT, but the best meteor shower viewing will occur between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Astronomers said Monday night’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower could be especially striking because of the lack of a bright moon.
When meteoroids -- the name given to small rocky or metallic objects traveling through space at high speeds -- enter Earth’s atmosphere, they begin to glow some 70 miles above the surface. Meteoroids as small as grains of sand enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 25,000 to 160,000 miles per hour.
According to Space.com, the Eta Aquarids were first classified in the late 1800s by American astronomer Hubert Anson Newton.
Here are some tips from NASA for viewing Tuesday morning’s meteor shower:
To view the Eta Aquarids find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient -- the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.
If camping out in the wilderness isn’t realistic for you, you’re probably better off tuning into the live stream. Slooh, a robotic telescope that provides free live broadcasts of asteroids, comets and eclipses, will broadcast the event live from upstate New York.
Check out the Slooh’s meteor shower live stream below or visit the YouTube page: