Eta Aquariids meteor shower – fireballs rain down as Earth passes through Halley's comet tail

A BRIGHT meteor shower will grace the night sky over the UK this week.

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower appear every year – and we've got all the info you need to spot it.

What is the Eta Aquariids meteor shower?

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is usually active from around April 19 to May 28 each year.

Eta Aquarii, the brightest star in the Aquarius constellation, gives the shower its name.

This is because the meteors appear to radiate from this direction.

The Eta Aquarids is actually one of two meteor showers created by debris from the Comet Halley.

Meteors appear when dust and rock crashes into the Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 150,000mph.

Earth will pass through Halley's path again in October, which will result in the Orionid meteor shower.

"The Eta Aquarids peak during early-May each year. Eta Aquarid meteors are known for their speed," explains Nasa.

"These meteors are fast – travelling at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into Earth’s atmosphere.

"Fast meteors can leave glowing “trains” (incandescent bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) which last for several seconds to minutes.

"In general, 30 Eta Aquarid meteors can be seen per hour during their peak."

When is the Eta Aquariids meteor shower?

The best time to spot the shower is in the early hours of the morning.

During the peak, which should be around May 5 and 6, stargazers could see 30 meteors an hour.

However, a full waxing gibbous moon around this time could block the good show.

Try to block out the Moon with the side of a building or other object so it doesn't obscure you view of Eta Aquariids.

How to see the Eta Aquariids meteor shower

You shouldn't need any special equipment to see the meteor shower but clear skies will help.

It may be useful to locate the Aquarius constellation as the meteors appear to radiate from there.

The show is typically better viewed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere may notice more meteors if they look towards the horizon.

With lockdowns happening all over the world it may not be possible for you to go to a dark secluded spot away from light pollution.

Nasa previously gave some tips on how to make the most of your garden to catch a meteor shower.

It advised: "Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair.

"Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.

"After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors.

"Be patient—the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse."

What is Halley’s Comet?

Comet Halley or Halley's Comet is one of the most famous comets, and was given its name after its discoverer, the astronomer Edmond Halley.

He looked into reports of a comet approaching in 1531, 1607, and 1682, and concluded they were all the same one.

Comet Halley is the only known short-period comet that is often visible to the naked eye from Earth.

Although its dust is regularly seen, the actual comet itself isn’t due to be visible until 2061.

What's the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?

Here's what you need to know, according to Nasa…

  • Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
  • Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
  • Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it'll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
  • Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn't vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth's atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
  • Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)


In other news, Nasa recently revealed a rare image of a comet breaking up.

The space agency has given out grants for innovative space projects.

And, we've rounded up some excellent snaps of the Lyrid meteor shower taken last month.

Are you a fan of stargazing? Let us know in the comments…

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