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Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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The best meteor shower of 2016
If you have a lot of wishes that you want to make, then meteor showers are a the perfect time to find some shooting stars to make a wish. From May 6 to 8, in the early morning before dawn, you will be able to see what is promising to be the best meteor shower of the year. There should be one meteor every 3 minutes.

A meteor shower (Courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau and P. Jenniskens at Wikipedia)
A meteor shower (Courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau and P. Jenniskens at Wikipedia)

Caused by the debris of Halley's Comet colliding with the earth, you will find it in the north east sky between 4 and 6 am on the east coast, but it will be visible across Australia. On Friday the 6th expect the peak to be later, around 6 am, while on the 7th and 8th the peak will be between 4 and 5 am.

The meteors will appear in the vicinity of the constellation Aquarius around the start Eta Aquarii. It is from the name of this star that this meteor shower gets the name Eta Aquarid.

May 7 & 8 will be the best day for viewing as the moon will be new and not rise until after dawn, so there will be no moonlight to block your view. On the 6th, there will be a little bit of moonlight just before dawn as the waning moon rises at 5:12 am. The meteors should be visible in the suburbs but ideally you want to get away from too many street lights.

Tips for meteor watching

To watch the meteor shower turn out all lights and look towards the north east horizon. Give your eyes at least 5 minutes to adjust to the darkness. So, no staring at your phone every few seconds. You should expect to see a meteor or shooting star every 3 or 4 minutes, but patience may be required. Sometimes it can be a while between meteors and other times several can appear in quick progression. Keep your eyes wandering around the area and you should see some.

Photographing a meteor show

Photographing meteors is not that easy. You can have a go with most DLSR or mirrorless cameras, but the trick to photographing meteors is speed, not exposure. So you need a fast lens. You can try it with a standard f/3.5 lens but ideally you need an f/2 or even lower lens to let in as much light as possible.

Set your camera up on a tripod and aim it to where you expect to see most of the shooting stars. You want an exposure of about 10-25 seconds. If there are other light sources then use a shorter exposure. Take lots of photos and hope for the best. Remember even if you don't have the best camera you might luck out with an extra bright meteor.

What are meteors?

Meteors start off as asteroids or meteoroids. These are rocks in space with meteoroids being the smaller rocks while the term asteroid is reserved for the larger rocks. While Hollywood movies show them as mountain sized rocks coming to destroy all life on earth, most are just small rocks that collide with the atmosphere to create beautiful shooting stars.

Meteors are the term for asteroids or meteoroids that that collide with earth's atmosphere. It is the friction produced by the meteor passing through the air that creates the glow.
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Why? Wish upon a shooting star
When: May 6 it peaks at 6 am, May 7 & 8 the peak is between 4 and 5 am
Where: In the constellation of Aquarius in the vicinity of Eta Aquari
Your Comment
Mmm. I'd like to see it but I will have to wake up earlier than usual. I will try.
by Di Hill (score: 2|549) 1815 days ago
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