Hail Aquarids


For the next few days Earth’s orbit passes through debris from Halley’s comet – an annual event known as the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

Animation Credit: NASA MSFC

Named for constellation Aquarius and the star Eta – the focal point Aquarids radiate from. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, look towards the eastern horizon a few hours before dawn on May 5 and 6th. Dependable,  with a respectable average of 60 meteors an hour, Aquarids are one of the easiest showers to view.

The reason pre-dawn star gazing delivers results is that the radiant (Aquarius) is highest in the sky an hour or two before twilight. The radiant isn’t as high in the northern hemisphere as southern hemisphere skies. Southern hemisphere sky gazers get more sky streakers an hour, northern hemisphere enthusiasts get “earthgrazers” – extremely flashy slow moving show offs moving horizontally across the upper atmosphere as the radiant rises – look for them around 2 – 2:30 am.

Meteors are nothing more than tiny particles, no larger than grains of sand, entering our atmosphere from 7 – 45 miles per second depending on their entry in relation to our orbit.  Meteor showers simply cosmic dust trails left by passing comets – nothing substantial enough to survive our atmosphere – absolutely no chance of impact.

A link to Earthsky’s 2014 meteor guide….


13 thoughts on “Hail Aquarids

      • Okay, I got up at just after 5. Made a cup of tea and wandered out to the edge of my property ( avec Field-glasses just in case)
        Stood there like a plonker for nigh on 90 minutes and saw diddly-squat.
        Even logged quickly , checked your page and the Jo’burg Observatory page to make sure I am looking at the right spot.
        Zip… And it was a clear,clear sky
        In fact, I reckon I could spot spots on my backside before I saw any perishing meteor shower.
        I’ll get up a bit earlier tomorrow.

      • If you have an android cell phone download Google Sky Map app then search Aquarius and follow the pointer until you locate it.Be patient, it will all be worthwhile, I promise 🙂

      • No, I don’t have such a posh cellphone.
        I have only recently graduated from two tins and a length of string.

        Well, I’ll get up earlier tomorrow – around 4:30 and pitch a bloody tent if I have to. The 7th is supposed to be the best day, yes?
        I do have a pretty good view South ( our property is raised) with nothing blocking the view from the Western horizon to the East.
        Lol..if you were close, I’d phone.

        “Okay, Ark turn left, and look up and…..”

      • Ah – you’re eating lunch as I finish my beer and go to bed. Makes sense. We just about flew to South Africa a few years ago when my husband was invited to speak at a legal conference but the timing wasn’t right. Obviously I knew you were basking in sunlight but wasn’t absolutely certain of the exact difference.

        I digress -if I could hand out an award for back busting effort you would take the prize. It makes my star gazing heart quiver to think somebody actually wanted to see them. Shucks, I’m out of words 🙂

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