Eta Aquariids meteor shower 2018: What is the best time to see the meteor shower?

The remnants of Comet 1P/Halley will slam into the upper atmosphere later this week to burn up and leave spectacular traces of light across the sky.

The annual meteor shower typically starts around April 24 and ends on May 20, but stargazers are intensely waiting for the shower’s peak.

According to to Dhara Patel, astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich, the peak will erupt “on the night of May 6 and the early morning of May 7”.

During this peak observers will be treated up to 55 meteors an hour breaking into a sprint across the night sky.

What is the best time to see the Eta Aquariids meteor shower?

Meteor showers are typically best observed after midnight and the Eta Aquariids tend to break out towards the early morning hours.

Ms Patel advised skygazers to wait until around 3am or 4am before the Aquariids intensify.

The astronomer said: “The maximum hourly rate is around 55 meteors per hour but you’re likely to see far fewer, especially when viewing from light polluted skies.

“It’s best to head away from the city to a rural location where there are also few buildings and trees to obscure your view of the southeastern horizon in particular.

“Heading to higher altitudes may also make viewings easier.

“Unfortunately, at this time of the year, much of Aquarius remains below the horizon until the predawn hours.

“For those of us in the northern hemisphere this meteor shower is not favourably placed.

“The waning gibbous moon is also close by, meaning there is likely to be interference from moonlight.”

If you intend to watch the meteors out in the wild over the weekend, remember to wrap up warmly and keep your eyes open from 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness.

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What are the Eta Aquariid meteors?

The Aquariids are bright burning meteors bursting out of their namesake constellation, the Aquarius, between the end of April and May.

Ms Patel said: “The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is so called because the meteors will radiate or appear to come from a part of the sky that lies in the Constellation of Aquarius.

However despite their namesake, the meteors are actually cosmic fragments of Comet 1P/Halley.

When Earth crosses paths with the comet’s orbit, bits and pieces of the stellar debris slam into the planet’s atmosphere and brightly burn up.

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