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article imageThe Eta Aquarids to give us a real light show for Cinco de Mayo

By Karen Graham     May 3, 2020 in Science
Skywatchers are in for a real treat this month, as several celestial events will occur. The first event coming up will be the Eta Aquarids meteor shower - and it is expected to peak in the early hours of Cinco de Mayo on Tuesday, May 5.
And for those of us stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic, May's celestial events are the perfect excuse to reconnect with nature. The Eta Aquarids is one of two meteor showers created by debris from Comet Halley.
The Earth passes through Halley's path around the Sun a second time in October. This creates the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks around October 20. Halley's Comet is visible from Earth about every 76 years. It was last seen in 1986 and won't be visible again until 2061.
An image of Halley s Comet taken June 6  1910.
An image of Halley's Comet taken June 6, 1910.
The Yerkes Observatory
According to NASA, every year, when Earth collides with the comet's orbit, a vaporizing debris field comes flying into our atmosphere at the astounding speed of 148,000 miles per hour. The ultra-fast meteors tend to leave glowing dust "trains" behind them, producing magnificent "shooting stars." As many as 30 Eta Aquarid meteors can be seen per hour during their peak.
The radiant gives the meteor shower its name
The radiant is the constellation from which a meteor shower appears to come from. This is an aid to skywatchers in determining which shower they are viewing on a given night. The constellation is not the source of the meteors.
Looking at the Eta Aquarids - they appear to be coming from the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer. One of the brightest stars within Aquarius is called Eta Aquarii, and these meteors appear from this area of the constellation. Eta Aquarii is one of four stars that make up the top of the "water jar."
While the meteors appear to originate from Aquarius  they are best seen 30 degrees away from origin ...
While the meteors appear to originate from Aquarius, they are best seen 30 degrees away from origin, so be sure to keep careful watch across the whole sky.
National Space Centre - UK
Keep in mind that the constellation Aquarius does not rise very far above the horizon in the northern hemisphere, and that's why northerners see relatively few meteors. But what they do see is spectacular.
The Super Flower Moon on May 7
Following right on the heels of the Eta Aquarids, and right when the meteor showers will be peaking - is the "Super Flower Moon," and it will be the fourth and final supermoon of 2020.
A supermoon rises over Washington on December 3  2017 in this handout photo provided by NASA
A supermoon rises over Washington on December 3, 2017 in this handout photo provided by NASA
NASA, GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
A supermoon is actually known as a perigee full moon by astronomers. The term is used for a full moon when it is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. Keep in mind that the moon really isn't any bigger than it usually is, it's just our minds playing tricks on us.
And because you would be looking at the moon through the densest part of Earth's atmosphere. it will appear to be a deep orange color (when rising or setting) and an entrancing pale yellow color (when just above the horizon).
More about The Eta Aquarids, halley's comet, aquarius, cinco de mayo, Meteor shower
 
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