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The annual Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on the morning of May 6th. For Southern Hemisphere observers this is the best meteor shower of the year. In addition, prospects are good as the New Moon won't interfere during peak activity and up to 55 meteors per hour are predicted.

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 October Orionids 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 actually a small part of the famous comet burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Nucleus of Halley's Comet (Halley Multicolor Camera Team, Giotto Project, ESA)


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 in equatorial and southern latitudes it appears quite high in the east/northeastern sky during the early morning hours. At mid-northern latitudes the radiant is still rather low down towards the east-southeast as morning twilight sets in.

Eta Aquariids Radiant and Star Chart

Eta Aquariids Radiant and Star Chart - pdf format

What to expect in 2016

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 only a handful of meteors per hour are usually 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 4/5 and May 6/7.

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
ZHR 55 (can vary between 40 and 85)
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)

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
Orbital period (years)75.3175
Inclination (degrees) 162.263
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)58.4201
Last perihelion February 9th, 1986
Next perihelion July 28th, 2061
NotesHalley's comet, the most famous of all comets