As the Earth speeds towards a trail of debris left by Halley’s comet, the Eta Aquariid meteor shower is due to be seen across the globe.
The Eta Aquariids happen every year, between mid-April and the end of May, as the Earth passes the point in its orbit that coincides with Halley’s comet’s cloud of outbound debris from its 76-year orbit.
The meteor shower is expected to peak on the evening of May 6, with up to 10 to 30 meteors being visible per hour.
This meteor shower is a result of particles left behind by the famous Halley’s comet. Discovered in the 1700s, this comet orbits the sun in a long ellipsis, only passing the inner solar system every 76 or so years. The comet was last visible in 1986, and will only next appear in mid-2061.
During its forays into the inner solar system, the comet is heated up by the sun, causing a stream of dust and ice particles to be sheared off its surface. This material wake remains in space even once the comet is long gone back to the outer solar system, and as the Earth moves through the patch of space containing this debris each year, we get the annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower as the debris burns up in our atmosphere.