The Eta Aquarid meteor shower runs from April 21 – May 20, 2015. Meteor activity peaks from May 5-6, and many meteors are still visible a few days on either side of the peak of this usually reliable shower. Slooh will broadcast the Eta Aquarid meteor shower live on the night of May 5, 2015.
The annual Eta Aquarids happen when Earth passes through an old stream of icy and dusty debris from the most famous of comets, Comet 1/P Halley. We pass through a second stream of Halley’s Comet in late October. This results in the Orionid meteor shower. So if you missed Halley’s comet during its last apparition in 1986, you can at least see sand-grain-sized bits of the comet burn up in the atmosphere during these two meteor showers.
The Eta Aquarids takes its name from the 4th magnitude star Eta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius. The star is 168 light years away and has no physical relation to the meteor shower. But the meteors appear to trace their paths back to a point in the sky near this star as the Earth moves through the leftover flakes of Comet Halley.
Because Aquarius lies well south of the celestial equator, this is a better meteor shower for observers in the southern hemisphere and ranks as perhaps the best for deep-southern stargazers. Rates of 30-60 meteors per hour are typical. Northern stargazers can see perhaps half that many near peak, but it’s still an impressive event. The Eta Aquarids on average are quite speedy and enter the atmosphere at 66 km/s (148,000 mph).
As with most meteor showers, the hours before twilight, as the Earth turns into the meteor stream, are the best time to spot the Eta Aquarids. You don’t need to find the star Eta Aquarii to see the meteors. They can appear anywhere in the sky.