May 5, 2012
Meteor Shower To Coincide With ‘Supermoon’ This Weekend
Peak viewing conditions for the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which occurs annually when Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley's Comet, will begin on the evening of May 5 and last until the early morning hours on May 6, NASA officials announced earlier this week.
The meteor shower, which is caused by the cosmic debris from the comet burning up in our planet's atmosphere, produces between 40 and 60 meteors per hour under ideal conditions, the US space agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
However, they report that a full moon will occur on May 6, and the light from the full (or nearly full) moon will make it more difficult to observe the Eta Aquarid meteors this year.
"NASA fireball cameras have already detected several bright Eta Aquarid meteors this year, so the odds are pretty good that a bit of Halley's Comet can be seen over the next few days," they said. "Ideal viewing conditions are clear skies away from city lights, especially just before dawn."
That moon will be the biggest full moon of the year, Space.com's Tariq Malik reported on Wednesday, and will officially occur at 11:35pm EDT, though NASA scientists advised him that is may appear to be full on both the previous and the following days as well.
Malik said that this is known as a "supermoon" or a "perigee moon," and it occurs when a moon becomes full at the same time that it makes his closest approach to the Earth during a given month.
That supermoon may make it tough for some to witness the meteor showers, so NASA has announced that they will provide a live video feed of the event on their Ustream video feed, courtesy of the allsky camera mounted at their Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The light-activated camera will turn on at or around dusk for those viewing the streaming video, NASA said. In addition, they provided some tips for those attempting to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower.
"Find an area well away from city or street lights. Lie flat on your back on a blanket, lawn chair or sleeping bag and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors," they said. "Be patient -- the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse."