Meteor shower peaks May 6


Our Night Sky

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the morning of May 6.
Since the new moon is on May 4, we should have great viewing. They’re basically a southern meteor shower due to the position of stars this time of year, but we live far enough south that we should have good viewing.
Earth travels through dust streams left by Comet Haley as it passes through the inner solar system.
It returns about every 75 years which it’s been doing for at least the past 2,000 years. It can offer up to 60 meteors per hour before dawn under dark skies which we will have.
They appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius which rises in the east about 2:30 a.m. this time of year and climbs about one-quarter of the way up by twilight. They radiate from the Y shape group of stars called the Water Jar in Aquarius. This is to the right of the Great Square of Pegasus. Even though this is where they radiate from, they streak all over the sky.
They’re actually active April 19 to May 28, but obviously the best viewing will be closer to the peak. The number of meteors increases in the nights preceding the peak, so you probably have a good week to view them.
I would say to look for them around 4 a.m. when they rise high enough to see. Because the radiant is so low in our sky, the potential for long fast meteors increases. These Earth grazers can leave particles that last for several seconds or minutes.  So get up at 4 AM when we have a clear sky around May 4, 5 or 6 for the best viewing.
This time of year is a good time to observe the Omega Centauri globular star cluster. It’s another low in the sky object, so you won’t see it until the star Spica reaches its highest point in our sky. That would be midnight early in May, and an hour earlier mid May.
Omega Centauri is 35 degrees directly below Spica. A fist at arms length is about 10 degrees, so it’ll take 3 ½ fists to be able to see it. Since we live in southern Colorado, we should be far enough south to see it.
It looks like a faint fuzzy star, but it’s actually the largest and finest globular star cluster visible to the naked eye. They are large symmetrically shaped groupings of stars fairly evenly distributed around the core of the Milky Way. There are around 250 stars, but only a few are visible with unaided vision. Obviously binoculars or a telescope will help you to see more.
So you’ll have to get up early to see the meteor shower, and stay up late to see Omega Centauri.

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