How to watch the meteor shower expected to be the best in years

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

While the prospect of rising from your bed in the middle of the night doesn’t sound too appealing, astronomers are urging Australians to rise for a meteor shower that is being dubbed as one of the best of its kind in years.

The annual meteor shower, known as the Eta Aquarids, is active between April 19 and May 28 this year, with its peak predicted to take place from Sunday.

The shower is the result of a debris field left by Halley’s comet hundreds of years ago and is best viewed in the southern hemisphere.

“The earth is passing through debris left by that comet,” observatory manager Judith Bailey at Victoria’s Ballarat Observatory told Yahoo News Australia.

A composite image of the 2013 Eta Aquarid in Australia. Source: American Meteor Society/ Colin Legg

She said the phenomenon is extra special this year due to a new moon on May 5, with midnight (AEST) on Monday moving through to Tuesday morning predicted to be the most spectacular viewing period.

“A new moon will assist, making the sky darker before dawn and we’ll be able to see the fainter ones,” Ms Bailey said.

“The fast and often bright meteors make the wait for the radiant rise worthwhile.”

There is no spike in meteor activity during the Eta Aquarids, with a plateaux period centred around Monday.

She said there is no specific spot in Australia that will benefit from a better view from others but urged gazers to arrive early in a bid to avoid disappointment.

No binoculars needed

“It’s good to get out there earlier, there could be some that come up and across from the horizon,” Ms Bailey said.

Unlike a solar eclipse, the display is safe to the naked eye and viewers are advised not to use binoculars or telescopes to get a panoramic view of the spectacle.

Ms Bailey predicts there will be about 40 meteors per hour before they start to disappear at sunrise.

They will be travelling at an estimated speed of 66km/s.

While it is visible across the globe, Australia is regarded as one of the best countries to view the phenomenon with the meteors rising to about 50 degrees which is considered a perfect viewing height.

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