Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower To Light Up The Sky This Weekend
John P. Millis, Ph.D. for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
As comets tumble into the inner solar system from their home, far beyond the orbit of Pluto, they make their way across Earth´s orbit. Along their path they leave behind a trail of tiny dust particles, stripped from the comet by the Sun´s radiation.
When the Earth passes through the trail of dust, the particles enter Earth´s atmosphere and burn up from the friction in the air. On the ground we witness the glowing trails across the sky.
Since the dust trail is fixed in space, the meteors shooting across the sky appear to be coming from a fixed point, known as the radiant. The name we give to the meteor shower derives from the constellation from which the radiant is located.
This weekend, many in the Southern Hemisphere (the view from the Northern Hemisphere will not be nearly as good) will have the opportunity to witness the annual Eta Aquarids shower, as they reach their peak rate. While not the most dramatic, this shower should be pretty good nonetheless.
Those in the southern part of the world can expect to see 20 to 40 meteors per hour, while those north of the equator may have to make do with about 10 over the same period.