The Eta Aquarid meteor shower of 2021 will be active from April 19 to May 28, but it peaks from May 4 through 6, so your best chance of capturing a great view of these remnants of Halley’s Comet occurs this week.
Every year, the Eta Aquarids put on a very good show. Under the very best conditions, which is when you have a dark and moonless sky, and during their peak time, which occurs this week, you could see anywhere from 30 to 60 of these very speedy meteors per hour, according to space.com.
The Eta Aquarids are remnants of Halley’s Comet, which produces two meteor showers per year as it approaches the Earth’s orbit in two places. The first occurs in the latter part of October, producing the Orionids meteor shower, and the second occurs in early May, producing the Eta Aquarids meteor shower.
This year, we are all in luck because the moon will be in its waning crescent phase, being only about 28% illuminated. Therefore, the moon will provide minimal light pollution to interfere with viewing these swift streaks of light.
The very best conditions will be before dawn on May 5, but a spectacular show will still be happening on the evening of May 5 and the morning of May 6 before dawn. Again, the showers will be active until May 28. It’s just that you will see the highest number of meteors per hour during the peak times. So, while you can see 30 to 60 meteors per hour during peak times, you may only see 10 meteors per hour past the peak.
The Eta Aquarids are bright enough to see with the naked eye, with no special equipment needed. All this really required is to view from a dark place away from artificial lights. You’ll also do your neck a favor to sprawl out flat on your back or recline on a pool lounger or lawn chair, or from any vantage point that allows you to look straight up in the sky.
The best viewing of the Eta Aquarid meteors will occur late at night or early morning. The meteor shower favors the southern hemisphere, and terms of abundance. The activity at mid-northern latitudes is less abundantly viewable. In other words, in the United States, people in the southern states tend to see more meteors than those in northern latitudes. If you’re in the mid-northern latitudes, you’re likely to only see 10 meteors per hour.
The Eta Aquarids are most viewable in the hour or two before morning twilight. Meteors tend to come in spurts, interspersed by lulls. Plan to give yourself about an hour before watching a meteor shower. In the beginning, it can take as much as 20 minutes for your eyes to adapt.
For early morning viewing, look to the southeast, before sunrise. On the mornings of May 3, 4 and 5, Earthsky.org advises that you watch for the moon near Jupiter and Saturn. On May 6 and 7, watch for the moon near Neptune.