Halley's Comet isn't scheduled to make its next appearance in the inner solar system for another 47 years, but the debris left in the wake of the comet's 1986 trip to the Sun is still causing quite a light show for Earth.
This week our planet is passing through the debris cloud left by Halley's Comet. The celestial event will light up the sky in both the northern and southern hemispheres with a meteor shower. The peak of the meteor shower can be seen late tonight, early on the morning of May 6.
Though nearly everyone on Earth will have a chance to see this week's meteor shower, people in the southern hemisphere will see the greatest number of meteors. According to NASA as many as 30 meteors an hour will appear in the night sky of the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere will get an even grander light show with as many as one meteor every minute at the peak of the shower. Peak rates of meteors can generally be seen sometime between 3 am to 5 am with dawn bringing an end to optimal viewing conditions.
This yearly event is named the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The name for the shower comes from the fact that, from the perspective of the Earth's surface, the meteors appear to be streaming from the constellation Aquarius. Though the Eta Aquarid meteor shower isn't as spectacular as the annual mid-November Leonids, the mild weather predicted for much of the U.S. could make tonight's event perfect for an early-morning meteor party.
The skies over the U.S. are expected to be much clearer than they were last Monday, but not everyone will have prime viewing conditions for the meteor shower. For those people NASA will be streaming footage of the night sky from its Marshall Space Flight Center on its Ustream page. Located in Huntsville, Alabama, the location is predicted to have clear skies for optimal meteor shower viewing.
Image via Wikimedia Commons