BOSTON (CBS) – We all know Halley’s Comet. Some of us may even remember Earth’s last narrow pass in 1986. And while many of us won’t be there for the next pass in the summer of 2061, we have two chances each year of seeing some of its remains. Our first chance this year comes this week as Earth goes through the dusty trail the infamous comet left decades ago leading to what we call the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
There is some good news and some bad news regarding your opportunity to see some shooting stars this week.
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Let’s start with the good …
-The moon is in a waning crescent phase so there is very little moonlight to dampen the show.
– The highlight for us in the northern hemisphere is very early on Thursday morning, around 2-4 in the morning. . . and it just so happens that this cloudy / rainy week this time frame should be mostly clear!
Now for the bad news …
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-The Eta-Aquarids come from the constellations Aquarius, which rise above the eastern horizon very late at night (after 2 a.m.) and never get very high above our horizon in the northern hemisphere. For those in the southern hemisphere, the Aquarids are a great show. . . not so much for us.
– Not only will the show be late and potentially at odds with the early morning light, but at best it will be a handful of potential meteors per hour.
So is it worth it to lose your sleep and go outside in the early hours of Thursday morning? Well I guess it depends. . . Are you a gamer
There’s a very good chance you won’t see anything, especially if you don’t have a clear view of the eastern horizon. There is a chance, however, of seeing a few ‘Erdgraz’ and if you catch one just right it is well worth the effort. Given the very small angle to the horizon at which the aquarids can be seen in our latitude, there is a possibility that a few “skimmers” will appear. These falling stars hugging the horizon often leave a very colorful and long trail, but here too there are only a few!
The good news is, if you don’t see the first part of Halley’s Comet’s annual meteorite show, you’ll get a much better shot, aka the Orionids, in October. When the weather permits, this show is usually more viewer-friendly in our part of the world.
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