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How to watch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower from Australia

Ben Domensino, Thursday May 6, 2021 - 15:43 EST

As our planet orbits around the Sun, it runs into various bits of cosmic debris left behind by comets and asteroids.

Around this time every year, we pass through a stream of particles left behind by Comet Halley (or Halley's Comet). As these particles burn up in our atmosphere, they cause streaks of light during a meteor shower known as the Eta Aquarids.

The name Eta Aquarids refers to the direction the meteor shower appears to come from when viewed from Earth. In this case, the radiant – the point in the sky where the meteors appear to emerge from – is in the direction of the constellation Aquarius. One of the brightest stars in this constellation is Eta Aquarii, which is why the meteor shower is called the Eta Aquarids.

The meter shower lasts for a few weeks, but its peak is in early May. The good news for Australians is that this particular meter shower is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.

The best way to watch the shower is to head outside in the hours before dawn. Lie down with your feet facing roughly towards the east and look at the sky for as long as you can. You'll need to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

If you do head out to watch the Eta Aquarids during the next few nights, make sure you check for clouds first. Also take plenty of layers to keep you warm, because the pre-dawn hours are usually the coldest part of the night.

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