One of the best meteor showers of the year will provide a light show worth getting up early for this week.
But it will be very early!
The meteor shower, also known as shooting stars, will be visible all across Australia, including in Canberra and the surrounding region.
Astronomer Dr Brad Tucker from The Australian National University (ANU) said the streaking-light shows from the Eta Aquariids meteor shower, which are bits of rock and ice from Halley’s Comet that will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, would be visible from early morning on Wednesday and Thursday.
Dr Tucker said while the meteor shower is an annual occurrence, this year provides the best chance of the shooting stars aligning.
“Every year is slightly different as there are pockets of the trail that have a bit more or a bit less in them. This is a pretty good year,” he said.
The comet’s passing is expected to produce bursts throughout the night all of this week, but the best times are expected to be on Wednesday and Thursday morning.
The meteor shower occurs when the comet gets closest to the sun which causes pieces of it to burn.
Dr Tucker said the event should be visible to the naked eye and the best time to view it would be early in the morning when the sky is darkest.
“This will be one of the best meteor showers that we will see this year,” said Dr Tucker, who works with the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
“The meteor shower is visible all across Australia. In a dark location, you can expect up to 50 shooting stars per hour.
“In Canberra, we should still see at least 15 bursts in an hour, which is still roughly one every couple of minutes.
“The good thing about this meteor shower is that even in Canberra, the skies are still relatively dark.”
Dr Tucker said the peak of the meteor shower would be early Wednesday morning, but the following morning will also be “very good”.
“The time to see the meteors will start around 4:00 am local time. The moon will have set as the shower starts to peak which means the sky will be nice and dark and it will allow everyone to see the fainter meteors. But that 4:00 am to 5:30 am period will be the sweet spot.”
Dr Tucker said people should allow their eyes 10 minutes to adjust to the darkness.
“Look towards the east and the sky should be putting on a show for you,” he said.
“If you are in a city, getting away from nearby lights and into a darker area like a nearby oval will allow you to see more shooting stars.”
Dr Tucker said places such as Lake George, Majura, Sutton and even Mt Ainslie would provide great vantage points as they allowed a view to the north-east where the meteor shower would be most visible.
If you happen to miss this natural Skyfire, Halley’s Comet produces two meteor showers, the other – the Orionids – is expected to pass by later in the year.