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The annual Eta Aquariids meteor shower, occasionally written as Eta Aquarids, peaks on May 5th / 6th and this year's event is favourable as the waxing gibbous Moon will have set a few hours before sunrise. The shower is best seen in the early morning hours just before sunrise from southern and equatorial regions.

Parent Comet

The parent body for the Eta Aquariids meteor shower is Halley's comet (1P/Halley). This isn't the only annual shower associated with the famous comet, the Orionids in October also originate from the same source. Although Halley has now left the inner Solar System and won't return until 2061, it's worth remembering that every Eta Aquariids meteor is a small part of the famous comet burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Halley's Comet (credit:- ESA)

Radiant

The radiant of the Eta Aquariids is located in Aquarius just south of the celestial equator and close to the Pegasus / Pisces border. For meteor watchers at equatorial and southern latitudes it appears quite high in the east / northeastern sky a few hours before sunrise. However, at mid-northern latitudes the radiant remains low down towards the east-southeast, even as morning twilight sets in.

View towards the east 2 hours before sunrise on May 6th from mid-latitude southern locations (credit:- freestarcharts)

View towards the east 1.5 hours before sunrise on May 6th from mid-latitude northern locations (credit:- freestarcharts)

Eta Aquariids Radiant and Star Chart (credit:- freestarcharts)

Eta Aquariids Radiant and Star Chart - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

What to expect in 2017

Up to 55 meteors per hour can be expected in the early hours of the morning from equatorial or southern latitudes. However, from northern temperate latitudes fewer meteors will be seen. On the positive side, the shooting stars are fast moving and often have long persistent trains. In addition, it's also worth looking out on the nights of May 4th / 5th and May 6th / 7th.

Eta Aquariids Data Table

Meteor shower nameEta Aquariids
Meteor shower abbreviationETA
Radiant constellationAquarius
ActivityApril 19th -> May 28th
Peak DateMay 6th (no sharp peak)
RA (J2000)22hr 32m
DEC (J2000)-01d
Speed (km/s)66
ZHR55 (can vary between 40 and 85)
RatingBright
Parent body1P/Halley
NotesUnlike most major annual meteor showers, there is no sharp peak for this shower but rather a flat week of good rated centered on May 6th.

Comet 1P/Halley Data Table (at epoch February 17th, 1994)

Name1P/Halley
TypeComet
ClassificationHalley-type comet (NEO)
DiscovererPrehistoric, Edmond Halley first recognised the periodicity
Discovery datePrehistoric
Aphelion (AU)35.0823
Perihelion(AU)0.58598
Semi-major axis (AU) 17.8341
Eccentricity0.96714
Orbital period (years)75.3175
Inclination (degrees) 162.263
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)58.4201
Last perihelionFebruary 9th, 1986
Next perihelion July 28th, 2061
NotesHalley's comet, the most famous of all comets