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Spring’s last meteor shower peaking

The Eta Aquarids are known for producing 10-30 shooting stars per hour during peak
The ETA Aquarid meteor shower is excepted to peak Wednesday and Thursday night. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 7:54 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Calling all Alabama astronomy fans! Spring’s final meteor shower is peaking as we round out the first week of May.

The Eta Aquarids peak during the predawn hours of May 5th and 6th; that’s this Thursday and Friday.

The Eta Aquarids peak in early May every year.
The Eta Aquarids peak in early May every year.(WSFA 12 News)

This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere because the radiant point of its meteors -- the constellation Aquarius -- is higher in the night sky south of the equator. Still, the Northern Hemisphere will get to enjoy a worthwhile show. Including us here in Alabama!

A total of 10 to 20 meteors will be visible each hour between roughly 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. both Thursday and Friday. Sometimes the hourly rate can reach up to 30 meteors with this shower.

The Eta Aquarids peak in early May every year as Earth passes through debris left behind by...
The Eta Aquarids peak in early May every year as Earth passes through debris left behind by Halley's Comet.(WSFA 12 News)

These meteors grace our night skies every year as Earth passes through debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. If the debris enters our atmosphere, it burns up and gives us the shooting stars we know and love seeing.

The Eta Aquarids are known for their speed, traveling at a whopping 148,000 mph according to NASA.

This fast rate of speed allows them to sometimes leave behind “trains,” or incandescent bits of debris that trail behind the meteor itself. These trains can last seconds to minutes according to NASA.

Some of us will have clear enough skies to view the Eta Aquarids early Thursday morning.
Some of us will have clear enough skies to view the Eta Aquarids early Thursday morning.(WSFA 12 News)

With the waxing crescent moon setting in the evening this week, there won’t be any moonlight to wash out this shower. However, Mother Nature may make it difficult to parts of Alabama to view it thanks to cloudiness and fog.

Thursday morning will feature the best chance of seeing the Eta Aquarids zip across the predawn sky. Cloud coverage will be variable across the state, but there will be some that see clear skies between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday morning is probably going to be doomed by overcast skies as a cold front approaches the state from the northwest.

Clouds will likely make it impossible to view the Eta Aquarid meteor shower early Friday morning.
Clouds will likely make it impossible to view the Eta Aquarid meteor shower early Friday morning.(WSFA 12 News)

So I suggest venturing our before 6 a.m. Thursday morning if you’d like to see a solid annual meteor shower at its peak.

If you do head out, be sure to head away from city centers and light pollution. Give you eyes a solid 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness and avoid looking at your phone during this time. It will also be important to give yourself a clear view to the south for the best viewing. Then it’s simple: just look up and enjoy!

The Eta Aquarids continue to zip across our sky through the end of May, but the rate declines each day. If you don’t head out for this shower, you’ll have to wait until the tail end of July for the next one.

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