Stargazing, for the untamed and unequipped eye, might seem like just a lot of staring at a dark sky. Getting all the telescopes and binoculars needed to see even the closest stars can be a challenge on its own, but luckily, the next meteor shower to hit our skies won’t need any accessories to be seen. So if you’ve suddenly gotten real passionate about stargazing in iso but don’t really know what you’re looking for, then get excited, because the Southern Hemisphere is in the prime position for a celestial show, free of charge and visible from your own backyard.
The eta Aquariid meteor shower, which occurs when Earth passes through a stream of debris left by Halley’s Comet each year, is set to light up the sky on Tuesday 5 May. For both professional and amateur stargazers, the shower promises anywhere between 5-20 meteors per hour at its peak, and meteors can be visible for several days before and after, if you happen to miss it.
According to the Brisbane City Council’s Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium Curator and astronomer, Mark Rigby, “Meteors will be visible with the naked eye so there’s no need for binoculars or a telescope, just a comfy chair and a clear and unobstructed view of the night’s sky.”
“The best time will be in the early hours of the morning, between 3am and 5am, and although the meteors will come from the east, you can see them anywhere in the sky. The meteors move very quickly—66 kilometres a second—and the glowing light you see isn’t from the tiny grain of rock itself, but actually from the white-hot compressed air in front of it. You’ll know you’ve spied an eta Aquariid meteor if you trace that glowing streak backwards and it appears to come from the same point as other meteors.”
So there you go—we’ve got confirmation from an expert. If you’re keen on waking up to see meteors in the wee hours, get your blankets, backyard chairs and eyeballs ready for a show-stopping display of light. You just gotta stay awake for it.
Image credit: Grey Rakozy