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Catch a Glimpse of Halley's Comet Debris -- Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower
Eta Aquarid meteor over northern Georgia on April 29, 2012 An Eta Aquarid meteor streaks over northern Georgia on April 29, 2012. (NASA/MSFC/B. Cooke)
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Each spring as Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley's Comet (1P/Halley), the cosmic bits burn up in our atmosphere and result in the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. This year the peak will occur on the night of May 5 and into the morning of May 6, with meteor rates of about 40-60 meteors per hour under ideal conditions.

A full moon occurs on May 6, just a day after the Eta Aquarids's peak on the 5th. The light of the bright full moon will wash out the fainter Eta Aquarid meteors, but all is not lost! The Etas have a decent rate -- 60 per hour -- and contain quite a few fireballs.

NASA fireball cameras have already detected several bright Eta Aquarid meteors this year, so the odds are pretty good that a bit of Halley's Comet can be seen over the next few days. Ideal viewing conditions are clear skies away from city lights, especially just before dawn.

Eta Aquarids Viewing Tips

Find an area well away from city or street lights. Lie flat on your back on a blanket, lawn chair or sleeping bag 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.

You can also check out other allsky camera links to see alternate views of the meteor shower.

More About the Eta Aquarids

The Eta Aquarids are pieces of debris from Halley's Comet, which is a well-known comet that is viewable from Earth approximately every 76 years. Also known as 1P/Halley, this comet was last viewable from Earth in 1986 and won't be visible again until the middle of 2061. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower gets its name because the radiant -- or direction of origin -- of the meteors appears to come from the constellation Aquarius.

NASA Media Contact:
Janet Anderson, 256-544-0034
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala.