Home Science Eta Aquariid meteor shower 2021: Can I still see the shooting stars?

Eta Aquariid meteor shower 2021: Can I still see the shooting stars?

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The Eta Aquariids are one of the most well known shooting star displays of the year. They are caused by arguably the most famous of comets – Halley’s comet – which leaves a trail of debris as it orbits the Sun. Stargazers are treated to up to 40 shooting stars per hour when the meteor shower reaches its peak, which happened in the early hours of May 6.

Can I still see the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?

As the debris field left by Halley’s comet is so vast, the time to see the Eta Aquariids lasts more than a month.

According to the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Earth officially entered the debris field from Halley’s comet on April 18.

Since then, the planet has been moving farther into the debris, slowly creating more shooting stars.

However, Earth reached the middle of the debris field on late May 5, going into the hours before dawn on May 6.

Now, the planet is moving away from the centre, but it will still be littered with the occasional meteor for the coming weeks.

In fact, meteors will still be visible up until May 27.

However, they will become less and less regular up until that date, until they eventually fade out completely.

Halley’s Comet takes 75 to 76 years to orbit the Sun, but often comes close to Earth.

When it does come close, some of the comet’s offshoot – which are usually as small as a grain of sand – burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere allowing people to see the spectacular shooting stars.

Halley’s Comet creates one shower in May – the Eta Aquariid meteor shower – and one in October – the Orionids meteor shower.

The comet is believed to have been first observed some 2,200 years ago, but it was not until astronomer Edmond Halley in 1705 that it was officially recognised.

The astronomer was the first scientist to correctly predict the comet’s return in 1758 and Halley was honoured by having the comet named after him.

But the comet has been sighted by different civilisations “for millennia” and was even spotted during the battle of Hastings – the spectacle was stitched into the Bayeux Tapestry.



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