Everything to Know About the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, Including When It Peaks and How to Watch

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to peak late night on May 4 and May 5 early morning

Milky Way During Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower
Photo: Getty

Super speedy stars are upon us!

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower annually peaks at the beginning of May and is expected to reach its apex between the evening of Wednesday, May 4, and the morning of Thursday, May 5 this year.

Known for its speed, this shower can see meteors traveling around 148,000 mph into the Earth's atmosphere, according to NASA. The most exciting part? You may see as many as 50 shooting stars an hour!

The only thing stargazing hopefuls should wish for is a clear night, especially since the Eta Aquarids radiate at medium brightness. This also means that viewing the starry spectacle from an extra dark location, away from city lights, will produce the best show.

"Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids," according to NASA. "When comets come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them."

Earth then makes its way through the debris trails each year causing the bits to clash with our atmosphere where they shatter to form bright, fiery, and colorful streaks in the sky. The Eta Aquarids originate from comet 1P/Halley, more commonly known as Halley's Comet.

Between when and how to watch the celestial display, keep scrolling for everything to know about the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

When to watch the Eta Aquarid meteor shower?

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, Babcock Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Although the Eta Aquarids meteor shower has been active since April 19, it is set to peak during the night of Wednesday, May 4 into the morning of Thursday, May 5 this year. It will remain active until May 28. Before dawn is the best time to watch the shower, per EarthSky.org.

Fortunately, the moon will be in its waxing crescent phase when the stars start to shoot at their peak. This means that the moon will be roughly 15% full, according to NASA. Typically when the moon is closer to full, it's harder to spot the shower due to its bright glow, drowning out the stars.

Where to spot the Eta Aquarid meteor shower in the sky?

Milky Way During Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower

While the Eta Aquarids will best be viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, or close to the equator, they will also be visible to some in the Northern Hemisphere as well. A tip for stargazers: locate the Aquarius constellation, situated in the southern sky.

This is the meteor shower's radiant, the point in the sky from which the Eta Aquarids appear to derive from — but also note that the constellation simply serves as an aid to viewers in determining which shower they are viewing, as it is not the source of the meteors.

Meaning "the water bearer" in Latin, Aquarius is comprised of four stars, with the Eta Aquarii star at the top. "This star and the constellation is where we get the name for this shower," per NASA.

What will the Eta Aquarid meteor shower look like?

A rare Green Fireball meteor from the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower around 5 a.m. in Babcock Wildlife Management Area near Punta Gorda, Florida

Since the Eta Aquarids form as a result of burning debris that clash with Earth's atmosphere, originating from Halley's Comet (which returns to Earth about every 76 years), expect to see flying, fiery flecks of dust in the sky — those are shooting stars!

This shower tends to be rather colorful, with yellow being the most common hue. In addition, the Eta Aquarids are known for their long and glowing tails, or "trains," due to the speed at which they whiz through space.

No special equipment is needed to view the shower. Just set yourself up in a dark location away from bright lights, lie on your back, locate the constellation, and expect to see upwards of 50 meteors per hour (weather depending). Patience is key but worth it!

When will the next meteor shower be after the Eta Aquarids?

F. Carter Smith/Sygma via Getty

The Delta Aquarids is the next meteor shower to take place, peaking between July 28 and July 29 this summer. Viewers can expect to see 10 to 20 stars shoot an hour during this phenomenon — but only if the skies are dark, as the Delta Aquarids are not as dark compared to other showers.

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