A new moon on May 4 provides inky black skies, allowing the Eta Aquariid meteor shower to shine.
Just coming off April's Lyrid Meteor Shower is a shower that has some of the best viewing conditions of the year. The Eta Aquariids are predicted to peak before dawn on or near May 5, with meteors noticeably streaking through the sky in the days surrounding it.
"The 2019 Eta Aquariid meteor shower is expected to produce the greatest number of meteors in the wee hours before dawn on May 5. However, the broad peak of the Eta Aquariid shower may present a decent showing of meteors during the predawn hours on May 4 and May 6, too. And in fact the shower extends much beyond these dates on either side," says EarthSky.org.
The moon, which put a damper on the Lyrids, will be in a new phase, so the skies should be quite dark, making it easier to see meteors with the naked eye. The shower will be more visible to those in the Southern Hemisphere, but we will still be able to catch quite a few shooting stars here in the northern half of the world.
This meteor shower is made of pieces of Halley's Comet and radiates from the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer, specifically around the star Eta Aquarii, which helps make up the "water jar" aspect of Aquarius. The coolest part is that the shower starts at this radiant and then travels some 170 light years to reach the Earth, burning up about 60 miles or so above the planet's surface. You don't have to look anywhere specific in the sky to catch the meteors, however, as they fly all over the place.
According to EarthSky.org, you can see some Eta Aquariid meteors in late evening.
"In fact, late evening is the best time to see earthgrazers, meteors that make exceptionally long streaks across your sky. As the radiant rises higher – that is, as the hours of the night tick away to dawn – you’ll see shorter meteors, but more meteor."
While the shower produces 20 to 40 meteors per hour, we will likely only see about 10 per hour due to our location.
If you want to check out the show, be sure to get away from city lights as much as possible and give your eyes about 20 minutes to totally adjust to the dark. Plan on taking a full hour or more for viewing, as meteors tend to come in spurts with lulls in the action.