Earth Glances Halley’s Comet Ancient ‘Dust’ Trail – Aquarid Meteor Shower for 2017 Underway
According to Canada’s Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR), a “hot spot” has appeared in the constellation Aquarius. This is a sign that the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower (ETA) is underway. This sky map shows where the radar is detecting pings from incoming meteors in broad daylight on May 2nd:
These meteors are pieces of Halley’s Comet, hitting Earth’s atmosphere at 66 km/s and disintegrating ~100 km above Earth’s surface. In the days ahead our planet will cross a network of debris streams from the comet, producing a drizzle of eta Aquarids numbering 10 to 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere and perhaps twice that number in the southern hemisphere.
Two leading meteor forecasters have noted the possibility of eta Aquarid outbursts. Mikhail Maslov says meteor activity could increase on May 4th (14h- 18h UT) when Earth grazes a dust trail released by Comet Halley in the year -616. Forecaster Mikiya Sato agrees that that Earth could encounter the -616 dust trail, but later on May 5th (05h – 15h UT), possibly with such a gentle graze that no special increase is detectable. In most years the strongest activity is seen around May 6th, which may still prove true in 2017.
The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours just before dawn when the constellation Aquarius is rising in the east. Monitor the meteor gallery for sightings.