How to Find the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

Every year, the Eta (η) Aquarid meteor shower peaks around 5-6 May.[1] It is caused by the dust that has been left over from Comet Halley entering Earth's atmosphere, then vaporising.[2] It's something to watch out for if you live in the southern latitudes.

As a bonus, in 2011, the moonlight will not dim your view of them.[3]


  1. Image titled Find the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Step 1
    Choose the right time to see the Eta (η) Aquarid meteor shower. The best viewing time is 5-6 May each year.[4] Although Comet Halley won't be visiting Earth until 2061, this meteor shower is courtesy of the Earth passing through its debris cloud.[5]
    • The best viewing time is in the hour or two before dawn.[6] This means around 3:00am to 5:30am.
    • The Eta (η) Aquarid meteor shower is active from 19th April through to 28th May, but activity is considerably lessened either side of the peak time.
  2. Image titled Find the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Step 2
    Find a suitable location. You will need to get away from city and town lights and go to a suitable viewing place, preferably higher up (a hill is good). While it is possible to see the showers in both hemispheres, the further south you're located, the more likely you are to see of the meteors.[7] The closer you are to the equator, the better.[8]
    • The naked eye is best for seeing meteors, so don't worry about a telescope or binoculars.
    • Prepare well for your stargazing, especially by dressing warmly and having something comfortable to recline on. See How to stargaze the relaxed way for tips on equipping yourself for the cooler night air.
  3. Image titled Find the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Step 3
    Look into the sky. The meteors appear to be coming from a point near the star Eta (η) Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius.[9] However, if you look in that direction, the meteors may well seem stub-like because their tails trail back toward the radiant. For the best chances, keep an eye on the sky generally and in particular eastward, as meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.[10] Expect their trails to point back to the Aquarius constellation.
    • Expect to be able to see around 30 meteors an hour, with up to twice as many obvious in the southern latitudes.[11] They will be fast-moving (66km a second or 148,000 miles per hour).[12]


  • The star Eta (η) Aquarii has nothing to do with the meteor showers other than its name, which came about because the showers appear to come from a point near the star.[13]
  • Just because the meteors aren't as prolific in the northern latitudes doesn't mean you shouldn't bother looking. The ones you do see may well be "earthgrazers", which are meteors that skim horizontally through the upper atmosphere.[14] This means that these ones will appear slow-moving and will leave a trail right across the sky, making for a stunning view.
  • A typical Eta Aquarid meteor will be as bright as a third magnitude star.[15]
  • The spelling of this meteor shower varies depending on which source you read. It is variously eta Aquarid, Eta Aquarid, eta aquarids, or even eta Aquariid. Go with the spelling that you like best; this article has used the spelling from Will Gater and Charles Sparrow, The Night Sky Month by Month.[16]
  • Weaker meteor showers are occurring at the same time. Trace the comet trails back to the Aquarius constellation as well as noting their speed to identify them accurately.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm clothes
  • Suitable viewing location

Sources and Citations

  1. Will Gater and Charles Sparrow, The Night Sky Month by Month, p. 53, (2011), ISBN 978-1-4053-6174-3
  2. Will Gater and Charles Sparrow, The Night Sky Month by Month, p. 53, (2011), ISBN 978-1-4053-6174-3
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Categories: Astronomy