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Eta Aquariids meteor shower 2022: When and where to watch May’s cosmic show

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is reaching its peak. But when is the ideal time to watch the cosmic show, and where is the best location to view it from.

Meteor showers are celestial events characterized by the appearance of numerous meteors in the sky, which seem to originate from a single point—known as the radiant.

These events occur when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets and, in some rare cases, asteroids.

Stock image showing two people observing a meteor shower. The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is to reach its peak on the night of May 4-5.
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The streaks of light we see in the sky when tiny fragments of space debris burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed are referred to as meteors, or colloquially as “shooting stars.”

In the case of the Eta Aquariids, this meteor shower is the result of debris left behind by the famous Halley’s Comet entering the Earth’s atmosphere—an event that occurs every year between mid-April and the end of May.

According to the American Meteor Society (AMS), the shower is active from April 15 to May 27, 2022. But the Eta Aquariids are now reaching its peak—meaning the time when the most meteors are visible.

The AMS estimates that the shower will peak on the night of May 4-5, which is likely the best date to view the event. (On this night, the moon will only be around 15 percent full, meaning relatively dark skies and good viewing conditions). However, meteor activity for this shower is relatively strong for about a week centered on the peak night, so don’t worry too much if you miss out tonight.

This meteor shower is best seen from the southern tropics where the radiant rises highest in a dark sky. While the shower is still visible from the equator northwards, observers in these regions tend to see significantly fewer meteors.

In fact, most observers in the Northern Hemisphere will only have a one or two-hour window before dawn to view this meteor shower.

This is because the radiant of the shower, which is located in the constellation of Aquarius, does not clear the horizon until 2-3 a.m. local daylight saving time as seen from the lower northern latitudes, according to the AMS.

The farther north you go, viewing conditions tend to become even more restrictive as the rising of the radiant and the start of the morning twilight get closer together.

As a result, the best time to watch this meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere is around an hour or two before the onset of morning twilight—or roughly 3-5 a.m. local daylight saving time—providing that weather conditions are good and skies are clear where you are, of course.

You don’t need any special equipment to view the meteor shower but for your best bet at seeing some shooting stars, try observing the event from a location with low levels of light pollution and open skies.

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