Sky Watch: Remnants of Halley’s Comet visible this week

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Eta Aquarids Visible This Week, Peak Early Tuesday

The last time Halley’s Comet visited the inner solar system was in 1986, but we’ll be able to see some pieces of it this week.

Halley’s Comet, probably the most famous comet, was named after it’s discoverer Edmund Halley.

The comet circles the sun once every 76 years. As comets get closer to the Sun, they shed material – dust, ice and other small pieces of debris.

Halley’s Comet in 1986. Image Credit: Halley Multicolor Camera Team, Giotto Project, ESA

Those pieces of debris are left behind in space and twice a year, the Earth passes through this debris (in the fall, the Orionids are visible).

More Info: Loud Boom over SE Mass May Have Been an Orionid Meteor »

The debris is usually pretty small, about the size of a grain of sand, but some larger chunks are sometimes left behind.

When those tiny pieces of comet hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up and appear as a streak of light which can be a shooting star or meteor.

Eta Aquarid Meteors in front of the Milky Way Galaxy. Courtesy Scott MacNeill and the Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, RI.

The tiny pieces of space rock will appear to come from the constellation Eta Aquarid. That’s where the ”Eta Aquarids” get their name. Eta Aquarid will rise in the southeast well after midnight. Although they’ll appear to come from the east-southeast, they could be seen streaking across the entire sky. 

Be sure to find a dark sky away from city lights and just look up. The nearly full moon will dampen all but the brightest meteors, so try to block the moonlight by standing behind a building or tree. Skies should be partly cloudy, so we could have a good view!

Detailed 7 Day Forecast from Pinpoint Weather 12 »

Here’s the latest hour-by-hour forecast. 

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