2024 Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower: Ultimate Guide
One of the best meteor showers for the Southern Hemisphere, the bright Eta Aquariids, reaches its peak in May. Find out when to watch it, what viewing conditions to expect in 2024, and get some useful tips on observing meteors. Let's get started!
- When is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?
- What is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?
- What causes the Eta Aquariids?
- The Eta Lyrid meteor shower
- Eta Aquariids 2024: Bottom line
When is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?
The Eta Aquariids run from April 19 to May 28, with a peak of activity on May 5-6. This meteor shower is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere. Observers located at latitudes up to about 40°N will also be able to see the bright meteors. The Eta Aquariids are visible in the hours before dawn — their radiant culminates at about 8 a.m. local time, leaving only a short observation window between the rise of the radiant and morning twilight.
To find out when the radiant will rise above the horizon for your location, use the Sky Tonight or Star Walk 2 app. Simply open any of the two apps and enter the name of the meteor shower in the search field. Remember — the higher the radiant rises, the more meteors you're likely to see, so look for the time when the radiant reaches its highest point in the sky before the morning sunlight illuminates the sky. For more useful meteor shower viewing tips, have a look at our dedicated infographic.
Viewing Eta Aquariid meteor shower in 2024
In 2024, the viewing conditions for the Eta Aquariids are promising. There will be no moonlight interference around the peak on May 5-6, as the Moon reaches its new phase on May 8. Aside from the peak, in 2024, the IMO recommends looking for the Eta Aquariids on May 3 between 05:00 and 08:00 GMT (12:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. ET), as there may be increased activity at that time. In addition, try to monitor the meteor shower on the nights around the peak — this year, there may be an outburst of activity from the Eta Aquariids.
What is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?
The Eta Aquariids are known for a high percentage of persistent trains, which provides a spectacular view for observers. It’s usually a very active meteor shower that produces up to 50 meteors per hour, assuming the observation conditions are excellent. In reality, you’re more likely to see around 40 meteors per hour, which is still much more than a usual meteor shower can produce.
All the Eta Aquariids appear to radiate from the point in the constellation Aquarius. This point is called the radiant of the meteor shower and nearly aligns with the faint star Eta Aquarii — hence the name of this meteor shower.
What causes the Eta Aquariids?
Most of the meteor showers come from comets. While traveling in its orbit, a comet leaves lots of particles of dust and rock behind. On its journey around the Sun, the Earth crosses this comet’s orbit each year at around the same time and passes through a bunch of comet debris. When these comet’s remnants enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they create bright streaks in our skies.
The parent comet of the Eta Aquariids is Halley's Comet, officially designated 1P/Halley. Interesting fact: Halley's Comet is a source for two streams at once. This comet’s orbit comes close to Earth's in two places, so it produces a bunch of bright streaks twice a year — the Eta Aquariids in early May and the Orionids in late October.
The Eta Lyrid meteor shower
One more meteor shower is active at around the same time — the Eta Lyrids. They reach a peak of activity on May 8 and last from May 3 to 14. These meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra. The Eta Lyrids are way less active than the Eta Aquariids; the hourly rate is around 3 meteors.
Learn more about the meteor showers that are peaking this season in our dedicated article. Don't miss out on spectacular stargazing events!
Eta Aquariids 2024: Bottom line
The Eta Aquariids, the best meteor shower of May and one of the best for the Southern Hemisphere, peaks on May 5-6. During this time, observers can see about 50 meteors per hour! Look for meteors just before dawn as the radiant rises high in the sky. Share this article with your friends and tell us on social media how many meteors you saw. Remember that no optics are needed — you should observe meteors only with the naked eye. Wishing you clear skies and happy observations!