How to Spot the Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower in May 2021

Roberto Michel/iStock via Getty Images
Roberto Michel/iStock via Getty Images / Roberto Michel/iStock via Getty Images

The fast-moving shooting stars of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower are easy to view, making this astronomical event one to watch in spring. The shower peaks on the morning of May 5, 2021, but it should still be visible the preceding and following nights. Here's everything you need to know to catch it.

What Is the Eta Aquariid meteor shower?

Earth passes through the debris trail left by Halley's comet twice a year. This results in two meteor showers: the Orionids in October and the Eta Aquariids in May. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is known for its speed, with shooting stars moving at roughly 148,000 mph. The event is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, where it's considered one of the most active showers of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, you can expect the Eta Aquariids to peak at around 10 to 20 meteors per hour.

What direction do the Eta Aquariid meteors come from?

The Eta Aquariid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius. In the hour before dawn, this radiant will sit above the east-southeast horizon. The shower isn't named for Aquarius, but rather a specific star in the constellation. Eta Aquarii is the name of one of the stars forming the water carrier's jar.

When is the best time to see the Eta Aquariids?

The best time to catch the Eta Aquariids are the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. If you can't make it outside that morning, try looking up at the same time on Tuesday, May 4, or Thursday, May 6. You will still have a good shot at spotting shooting stars in the days surrounding the shower's peak. If you have a choice, you should try catching the meteors later in the week rather than earlier. The waning crescent moon will be dimmer—and less likely to wash out the stars—on May 5th and 6th.