WASHINGTON (UPI) — The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower, the cosmic debris of Halley’s Comet, will come to a crescendo overnight tonight, as shooting stars grow in intensity and frequency from midnight to sunrise on Tuesday morning.
As long as clouds don’t spoil the fun, sky-watchers in the Northern Hemisphere could see as many as 30 shooting stars an hour, as Eta Aquarid meteors burn up in the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Star-gazers in the Southern Hemisphere could see some 60 shooting stars an hour.
For homebodies and those cursed with overcast conditions, NASA will be live streaming the meteor shower from its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Clear skies are anticipated.
The shower will also be broadcast by the online Slooh community telescope beginning at 9 p.m. EDT. The live stream will be accompanied by commentary from astronomer Bob Berman.
“What makes this shower somewhat special is that the meteors stem from the most famous comet in all of history, Comet Halley,” Berman said in a statement. “As Halley goes around the sun in its 76-year orbit, pieces of it, little chunks of ice, slough off the comet and we intersect that every year around this time, in early May.”
Halley is the only short-period comet that can be seen by the naked eye from Earth. It’s also the only comet that may become visible twice in a human lifetime. It last appeared in 1986, and is expected to whiz by within view again in 2061.