Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is hosting an Eta Aquarid meteor shower viewing on Saturday, May 7th. Even though the meteors do not fall quite as abundantly for us here in the northern hemisphere, we are still able to view the quick moving and often bright meteors during predawn hours. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower typically favors the southern hemisphere and is annually visible from April 19th-May 20th. This year, May 6th brings with it a new moon, supplying us with an intensely darkened sky with which to optimize our meteor viewing. This annual event doesn’t necessarily offer distinct peaks of meteors, but rather plateaus. The greatest number of predawn meteors has been predicted between May 4th and May 7th.
Now for a little background on this particular meteor shower. Eta Aquarid is named after a star, Eta Aquarii, which lies in the Aquarius constellation. The radiant point (the point in the sky from which meteors appear to originate) seems to lie very near this bright star. There is no need to keep your eyes focused on the Aquarius constellation as meteors can be seen all over the darkened sky.
What is the source of this brilliant shower? Halley’s Comet! What do we know about Halley’s Comet in conjunction with Eta Aquarid? The wake of a comet is littered with trails of dust and debris which often causes a meteor shower. The orbital path of Halley’s Comet is annually crossed by Earth in late April-May. Earth is deepest in Halley’s Comet debris field typically around May 6th. When the dust and debris collides with Earth’s atmosphere it results in the predawn showers.
Obviously, that was an extraordinarily general summary of the interactions between Earth, Halley’s Comet, and the resulting meteor shower. I am by no means an expert on the subject. If you want to know more please visit with the park rangers at the Petrified Forest, consult your local astronomer or astrophysicist. Neil deGrasse Tyson, anyone? If you are able to make it to the viewing please let us know about your experience.
Who: You and your fellow meteor fans/knowledge seekers
What: Meteor Shower Viewing
When: 7pm on May 7th
Where: Petrified Forest National Park – Chinde Point
Why: Because you are curious
Park Contact Information: Kip Woolford 928-524-6288 x273
Adventure on Earthlings ~ Tiffany