Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks
Annual cosmic light show occurs as Earth passes through Halley's Comet debris trail
Stargazers were treated to a cosmic light show overnight as the annual Eta Aquarids meteor shower streamed through the sky.
The meteors are part of a weeks-long shower that begins in late April and continues until the third week of May, peaking on or around May 6 every year.
Astronomers expected that viewers in the Northern Hemisphere would see about 30 meteors per hour, while those watching from south of the equator would see up to 60 per hour.
While the stellar show will be visible from midnight until dawn, peak hours were between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET. A first-quarter moon set just before midnight, helping to darken the skies and set the stage.
NASA recommended viewing the meteor shower away from the glow of city lights, and offer a live feed from the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Ala.
The meteors of the Eta Aquarid shower are in fact part of the debris trail from Halley’s Comet, which passed through the inner solar system in 1986. As the Earth passes through the trail at about this time every year, the debris bits are burnt up in its atmosphere, producing the light show in the sky.
The name Eta Aquarid comes from the fact that the meteor shower appears to take place within the constellation Aquarius, close to its brightest star, Eta Aquarii.