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Bits of Halley’s Comet to Rain Down in Meteor Show

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Remember Halley’s comet? Twenty-five years ago thousands of people peered through telescopes to see it whiz by.

Early Saturday morning stargazers will have the chance to see bits of the comet rain down during the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

Meteor showers are named after the constellation that their radiant is in, in this case — the constellation Aquarius. The shower stems from the “water jar” near one of the constellations brightest stars, Eta Aquariid.

The Eta Aquarids are created by bits of material from Halley’s Comet as it travels through the solar system on its 76-year orbit. They were first reported in old Chinese records from the 8th century, although some have contended the Greeks spotted them first around 466 B.C. They were later confirmed in 1900 by astronomer William F. Denning.

This year, the display peaks during the early hours of May 6.

NASA astronomer William Cooke explains that many of the meteors are likely to be “Earth Grazers,” meaning they’ll hit our atmosphere at a shallow angle. This could lead to very long, dazzling trails. Cooke instructs to see the meteors, look straight up if you’re in the southern hemisphere and straight up and slightly to the east if you’re in the northern hemisphere.

As Cooke says: “Let your eyes adjust to the dark, and be patient.”

Via Bits of Halley’s Comet to Rain Down in Meteor Show

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Written by Nokgiir

May 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

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