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The stream of the shooting star Eta Aquariid reaches its maximum, but meteors are not so easy to notice. You can still do it this way.

Frankfurt – When the skies are clear, falling stars can be seen several times in May. In the ‘happy month’, streams of meteors from Eta Aquariides and Artidas rush across the sky every year. However, the success of the observation largely depends on where you are: for example, Arietids cannot be observed with the naked eye in Central Europe because they occur here in the middle of the day.

The shooting stars of the Eta Aquariids (also called May Aquarids) are a little more promising. This meteor, launched by Halley’s Comet, began in early April and continues through the end of May. The maximum meteor star is on May 6, during this period up to 50 meteor stars per hour can be observed in the sky. However, this value, called ZHR (zenithal hourly rate), must be used with caution: it indicates how many meteors can be seen per hour under ideal observing conditions.

In May, several streams of shooting stars shot across the sky.  (archive photo)
In May, several streams of shooting stars shot across the sky. (Archive Photo) © imago / Sylvio Dittrich

Shooting stars ETA Aquarid reached their peak tonight

In this case, ideal monitoring conditions mean the following:

  • Absolutely clear sky
  • very dark sky
  • Best view of the entire night sky
  • The starting point of the (radiating) stars is perpendicular to the observation point (at the apex)

Observing the falling stars: Eta Aquariids can only be seen briefly in the early morning

These monitoring conditions are difficult to achieve in practice, which is why the specified ZHR should always be considered as an absolute maximum that is not necessarily visible. Falling stars in Eta Aquariids have another limitation: the radiation, that is, the apparent starting point of the falling stars in the sky, lies in the constellation Aquarius, which rises only in the early morning hours (about 4 am) in the east. The sun rises after a short time – although the moon does not bother the watch, only a few meteors should be visible in the sky.

Experts estimate that with radiation only 10 degrees above the horizon, less than 20 percent of the ZHR-listed meteors are visible — for Eta Aquariids, that would be about 10 meteors per hour. But they have everything: since the radiation is very low, the falling stars have a shallow angle of entry into the Earth’s atmosphere – meteors often appear for a long time in the sky. By the way: the further south you look in the sky, the better you can see the falling stars of the Eta Aquariids, since the radiation is slightly higher in the sky.

Another shooting star in May: Eta Leeds

In addition to the Eta Aquariids, a very short shower of shooting stars can be seen in May: Eta Lyrids are active from May 5-14, the maximum is May 10 – but then there are only three meteors per hour seen. The apparent origin of shooting stars, the constellation Lyra, stays high in the sky all night long. (tab)

Launch of the star calendar and satellite newsletters

When will the next star husks rush across the sky? The star meteor calendar reveals this with an overview of the most important showers of the year.

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