Each year there are two incredible meteor showers caused by Halley’s Comet, the Aquarids in the spring and the Orionids in the fall. Named after the ‘radiant’ point from which the shower appears to originate, a point in the constellation Aquarius, the Aquarids will occur from late April until approximately mid-May.
While some meteor showers are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye, the Aquarids will provide us with an incredible display of ‘shooting stars,’ visible to anyone who is interested in seeing it. Industry expert Bill Cooke from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office advised that the shower will peak just before dawn on May 7th, reaching approximately 15-20 meteors per hour. While the light from the waning gibbous moon will obscure some of the show, the brightest of the Aquarids are still expected to be visible in the night sky.
Experts suggest that the best dates to view the meteor shower, considering both the number of meteors expected during that time and the light expected from the moon and other factors in the night sky, will begin just before dawn on May 5th and continue on through to the predawn hours on May 6th.
In order to get the best view available of the meteor shower, you first need to find a relatively open area with a clear view of the night sky. Keep in mind that cities generally cause a great deal of light pollution, which may wash out your view. If you know of a park or field outside of city limits, your view will be unobstructed. It is also important to consider the time of day that you are going to try to watch the shower. Locate the peak date(s) for the shower (in this case, May 7th) and make your meteor shower watching plans with those dates in mind. This phenomenon is most visible in the dark of night, after midnight and before dawn.
You may be tempted to grab a pair of binoculars or a telescope to improve your visibility, however, these devices tend to limit your field of view. Instead, it is best to rely on the naked eye. When you first head out it will be difficult to fully see all lies before you, however, as your eyes begin to adjust to the reduced light then you will find you actually have a great view of the sky before you. In order to avoid compromising your vision, avoid using anything that will emit a bright light including flashlights and cell phones. Red light doesn’t have the same impact on your eyesight, so if you do require a light bring along a flashlight with interchangeable filters, or place red cellophane over the flashlight or your cell phone to alter the light emitted.
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