Home > Ephemeris Program, Meteor Shower, Observing > 05/03/2016 – Ephemeris – Halley’s Comet is back… In little bitty pieces

05/03/2016 – Ephemeris – Halley’s Comet is back… In little bitty pieces

May 3, 2016

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 3rd.  The Sun rises at 6:29.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:50.   The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 5:23 tomorrow morning.

There’s a meteor shower happening this week that’s  a tough one for observers as far north as we are.  It’s the Eta Aquariids:  seeming to come from the Water Jar asterism of the constellation Aquarius the water bearer.  It will reach peak on Thursday the 5th, however the radiant point rises around 3:30 a.m., and twilight starts an hour and a half later.  The radiant is also low in the southeastern part of the sky.  The meteors are fast-moving and many of them are bright.  They are bits shed by Halley’s Comet and left in its orbit.  The Earth passes close to Halley’s orbit twice a year:  In late October as the particles come in from the outer solar system, and again in early May as they head back out again.  We’ll see souvenirs of Halley’s Comet before it returns in 2061.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Eta Aquarid radiant

The Eta Aquarid radiant at the peak of the shower. The radiant moves slowly to the east with time. Credit: Bob Moler’s LookingUp program.

This meteor shower is low for us in the Northern Hemisphere, but it will be great for those Down Under.  The Moon is even cooperating this year, by getting out of the way.  The active dates for the shower are April 19th to May 28th. The velocity of the meteoroids that strike the atmosphere is 66 km/s.  Halley’s Comet, and thus its debris is traveling in a retrograde orbit, going the wrong way in a one way solar system, which is why the speed of the particles is so high.

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