Shards of Halley's Comet to spark spring's final meteor shower this week
Halley's Comet is currently more than 2 billion miles away from Earth, which is farther away than Neptune. May 3 -- The second and final meteor shower of the spring is about to peak, and it will present a unique opportunity to enjoy a well-known comet that is billions of miles away from the Earth. Most meteor showers are created when the Earth plows through a field of debris left behind by comets orbiting the sun. The comet responsible for the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which peaks late Thursday and early Friday, is perhaps the most famous comet in recent history: Halley's Comet. Halley's Comet is currently more than 2 billion miles away from Earth, which is farther away than Neptune. Viewing the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower is another way to enjoy the comet, although seeing a shooting star is a completely different experience than spotting a comet in the sky. A flash of light from a meteor only lasts a few seconds, while a comet can be seen for weeks, sometimes months, as it appears to slowly fly through the night sky.
The best window for viewing the upcoming peak of the Eta Aquarids will occur between 3 a. Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere can count between 10 and 30 meteors per hour during this time frame, according to the American Meteor Society. However, cloudy conditions could interfere with viewing this year's edition of the Eta Aquarids for large areas of North America. The best weather for the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is expected across the interior Southwest, southern Plains, Florida, northern New England, most of Quebec and into Atlantic Canada. Far-reaching clouds will obscure most of the sky for nearly half of the contiguous United States on Thursday night into Friday morning, including most of the East Coast, Midwest and Southeast. Clouds are also in the forecast for the northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, although there could be some breaks in Washington, northern Idaho and into British Columbia, Canada. The Eta Aquarids will remain active through the second week of May, so people that find themselves under a cloudy sky on peak night will still have time to spot some shooting stars over the weekend and into next week.
"By May 10, hourly rates will fall below 10 per hour and will slowly fall as the month progresses," the AMS explained. After the Eta Aquarids come to pass, the next chance to enjoy a meteor shower will not arrive until the middle of the summer with the Southern Delta Aquarids and the alpha Capriconids. Anyone who's planning to watch the Eta Aquarids should be patient. Additionally, it takes 15 to 20 minutes for your eyes to completely adjust to the dark. It is important not to look at any source of light, such as the screen of a cell phone, once your eyes have adjusted to the darkness of the great outdoors. Finally, experts recommend that you have a wide view of the night sky. The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8.
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