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Set your alarm now to watch this weekend’s dazzling meteor shower

If you’re looking for something awesome to do this weekend, set your alarm for early Sunday and look up at the sky. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak this weekend, with the possibility of dozens of meteors an hour crossing the sky in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning. While the number of meteors visible per hour will depend on where you are, even those in less than ideal conditions should see up to 10 meteors per hour.

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower occurs annually between April 15 and May 27, peaking in early May. Meteors are particles left over from comets that come from broken asteroids. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is created from dust grains shed by Halley’s Comet as it enters the inner solar system.

According to NASA, Eta Aquarid meteors are noted for their speed, with meteors in the stream possibly reaching a maximum speed of 148,000 miles per minute when they reach Earth’s atmosphere. Their speed allows them to shed debris as they burn up in the atmosphere, leaving what NASA calls “trains” in their wake. These trains are rays of light that can remain in the sky for minutes after the meteors have passed.

How to see the Eta Aquarid meteor shower

As with any other meteor shower, making the most of the Eta Aquarid viewing experience has a lot to do with location. Those in the southern hemisphere will be able to see more meteors, but those north of the equator will still receive a decent amount.

When to get up?

Time is important when viewing the Eta Aquarids. While they will technically be visible all night, viewers will have a better chance of seeing them in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, when the sky is darkest. And since the moon will be 14% full that night, moonlight shouldn’t interrupt viewing.

The good thing about the Eta Aquarid meteor shower is that it will be visible throughout the night. However, several factors can affect when is the best time to see the rain, including time and cloud cover. Keep an eye on your local weather forecast to determine how cloudy it is expected to be in your area and keep in mind that the darkest periods of the night typically occur after midnight, before dawn.

What to look for?

You are looking for rays of fire crossing the sky. Think of meteors as dusty particles left over from broken asteroids. As asteroids travel around the sun, the dust breaks off and follows its own path through space. As the Earth passes through these dusty areas composed of meteors, the meteors collide with the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate. From our vantage point on Earth, we see meteors explode in a fiery event that creates streaks in the sky.

Leave the city behind

Speaking of light pollution, the chances of seeing the Eta Aquarids when looking at the sky over a big city are almost zero. Instead, it is better to get as far away as possible from the city lights that pollute the night sky. NASA also recommends lying on your back and facing east for the best chance of seeing as many meteors as possible.