Early Sunday (May 5), just before dawn, we’ll have an opportunity to see some of the remnants of the most famous of comets briefly light up the early morning sky.
The famed Halley’s Comet made its last pass through the inner solar system in 1986 and is not due back until the summer of 2061. But each time Halley sweeps around the sun, it leaves behind a dusty trail — call it “cosmic litter” — that is responsible for two meteor showers on Earth each year. The first of those “shooting stars” displays, the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, will peak on Sunday.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower occurs each year in early May because the orbit of Halley’s Comet closely approaches the orbit of Earth in two places. The first is the May timeframe, which leads to the Eta Aquarids. The other point occurs in mid-October, producing the Orionid meteor shower.
This may be one of the exceptionally few times where there’s a clear sky and no full or near-full moon where I am during one of these events (or at least it seems that way).