Oldster's View

Fight Against Maturity

Bits of an old visitor

New Scientist Space
Bits of Halley’s Comet will streak into the Earth’s atmosphere before dawn on Sunday during the peak of the eta Aquarid meteor shower. Although moonlight will make all but the brightest meteors impossible to see, those that are visible may be quite spectacular due to the geometry of the shower.

Halley’s Comet last swung by the Earth in 1986 and now lies in the outer solar system. But every time it passes near the Sun on its 76-year orbit, the nucleus of the icy object sheds about 6 metres of material, which spreads out along the comet’s orbit. Twice a year, the Earth runs into this dusty detritus, producing the eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October.

The Earth will slam into the trail in the hours before dawn on Sunday for viewers in any time zone. The meteors can appear in any part of the sky, but their trails appear to originate near the star eta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius, the water bearer, which gives the shower its name.

May 4, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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