Skygazers: Brace yourselves for a kick in the Aquarids

Meteor shower peak ahoy, cloud and rain a cert

The annual Eta Aquarid meteor display will peak on the night of 5/6 May, with skygazers not suffering the traditional cloud and driving rain advised to keep an eye out for maximum burning dust from Halley's Comet at around 3-5 am on the 6th.

The southern hemisphere should enjoy roughly 30 meteors per hour, with around 10 promised for those of us north of the equator. The Eta Aquarids - so named because they appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius - are a "blink-and-you'll-miss-'em" show, since they hit Earth's atmosphere at a sizzling 240,000 km/h and are accordingly quickly consumed as they streak across the heavens.

October's Orionid meteor shower is also associated with dust from Halley's Comet. The comet itself has an orbital period of between 75–76 years, and was last visible from Earth in 1986 as it passed through the inner solar system. Its next scheduled visit is in 2061. ®


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