Mon, 04 May 2020
STARGAZERS are in for a double treat this week with the peak of the Eta Aquarids meteor showers and May's full Moon, which will be the third consecutive Supermoon.
The Eta Aquariids are the first of two showers each year caused by Halley’s Comet. The second is in October and is known as the Orionids.
As the comet races around the Sun, bits and pieces break off and are left behind in its tail. The orbital debris from the comet slams into our atmosphere at speeds of about 70km per second or 156,586mph and the meteors burn up before they reach the ground. As they fall towards us, they leave behind glowing trails of ionised gas.
The meteor shower is named after its radiant point near the constellation Aquarius, shown above. The radiant is the apparent point from which a shower appears to emerge from.
The showers have been visible since April 19, but will peak between May 4 and May 6, when as many as 50 meteors an hour could appear.
The bad news is, because we are heading towards a full moon, the brightness of the moon may obscure the trails. In addition, these meteor showers are generally more visible in the southern hemisphere, however with clear skies you should be able to see some trails, particularly at early dawn.
Meanwhile, the Super Flower Moon will appear on Thursday, May 7, when the Moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth to the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. It is the third consecutive super full Moon – so-called because it will be at its closest point to Earth - it is the last super Moon of 2020.
It was named the Flower Moon by early Native American tribes. NASA explained: “Going by the seasons, as the second full Moon of spring, the Native American tribes of the northeastern United States called this the Flower Moon, as flowers are abundant this time of year in most of these areas.
The Super Flower Moon officially reaches its peak at 11.45am, but it should be visible all Thursday evening.
Don’t forget to send us your astronomical pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can create a cosmic gallery.