The Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower May 2021

Image Credit: Jeff Sullivan

Start a week of catching meteors tonight — the bright Eta Aquariids already light up the sky. Today we’ll tell you how and when to see this meteor shower. For better observation, use Star Walk 2. The app will show you where the radiant point is in the sky. Remember: the higher the radiant point climbs, the more meteors you’ll likely see.

What is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?

The Eta Aquariids are known for a high percentage of persistent trains, which provides a spectacular view for observers. It’s usually a very active meteor shower that produces up to 50 meteors per hour, assuming the observation conditions are excellent. In reality, you’re more likely to see around 40 meteors per hour which is still much more than a usual meteor shower can produce.

All the Eta Aquariids appear to radiate from the point in the constellation Aquarius. This point is called the radiant of the meteor shower and nearly aligns with the faint star Eta Aquarii — hence the name of this meteor shower.

What causes the Eta Aquariids?

Most of the meteor showers come from comets. While traveling in its orbit, a comet leaves lots of particles of dust and rock behind. On its journey around the Sun, the Earth crosses this comet’s orbit each year at around the same time and passes through a bunch of comet debris. When these comet’s remnants enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they create bright streaks in our skies.

The parent comet of the Eta Aquariids is Halley’s Comet, officially designated 1P/Halley. Interesting fact: Halley’s Comet is a source for two streams at once. This comet’s orbit comes close to Earth’s in two places, so it produces a bunch of bright streaks twice a year — the Eta Aquariids in early May and the Orionids in late October.

When and where to see the Eta Aquariids in 2021?

The Eta Aquariids run from April 19 to May 28, with a peak of activity around May 5. Unlike many other meteor showers, the Eta Aquariids don’t have a strict peak of activity. There are rather week-lasting good meteor rates centered on May 5. Start an observation today — thus, you’ll get higher chances to catch more meteors!

The observation conditions in 2021 will be perfect: from May 6, the Moon will be 27% illuminated and won’t outshine the “shooting stars.” Check the Moon phase, its rise, and set times with the Sky Live feature in Star Walk 2. Tap Sky Live in the app’s menu, choose a date in the upper right corner of the screen, and see the necessary information about the space body.

The Eta Aquariids are bright and prolific; they provide an especially nice view in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, they have a lower intensity. In other words, from the southern latitudes, you’ll catch 20 to 40 meteors per hour in the dark skies, but from the mid-northern latitudes, the rate might lower to 10 meteors.

The Eta Lyrid meteor shower

One more meteor shower is active at around the same time — the Eta Lyrids. They reach a peak of activity on May 8 and last from May 3 to 14. These meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra.

The Eta Lyrids are way less active than the Eta Aquariids; the hourly rate is around 3 meteors. However, according to the Eta Lyrids study, this meteor shower can surprise observers with an unexpectedly large number of meteors (up to 26!). The authors highly recommend paying attention to this meteor stream around May 10. Considering the Moon phase, it might become a spectacular view in 2021.

Share this article with your friends and tell us on social media how many meteors you saw. Remember that no optics are needed — you should observe meteors only with a naked eye. Wishing you clear skies and happy observations!



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