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'Eta Aquarids' Meteor Shower Visible Now, But Best Shooting Stars On Cinco De Mayo

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Remember Halley's Comet? We're about to get hit by parts of it as dust from the tail of the comet smashes into earth on the night of May 5th--Cinco de Mayo 2014--during the Eta Aquarids meteor shower.

The annual shooting star show appears to come out of the constellation Aquarius, and can be visible from April through May 12th, but the peak is on the 5th, with up to 10 meteors possible per hour.

In the southern hemisphere, up to 30 meteors per hour are seen.

Multiple meteor showers may be occurring simultaneously, though.  If you see a falling star, trace it back to the constellation Aquarius to see if it was from the Eta Aquarids or another meteor shower.   If it didn't appear to come from Aquarius, it's a different shower.


To sound really knowledgeable, or to win at pub quizzes, the term "meteor" describes a space rock of some kind that enters earth's atmosphere.  Here are the other terms that are often tossed around:

ASTEROID: A large body in space orbiting the sun, from a few feet to several hundred miles in size, often made of iron.  A "comet" is similar, but made of other materials, usually dust and water that form a long, glowing tail.

METEOROID:  A small rock or dust in space.

METEOR: A meteoroid or asteroid or comet that has entered earth's atmosphere.  A "shooting star" or a "falling star" are meteors.

METEORITE:  A space rock that has landed, intact, on the surface of earth.  Meteorite hunters go around after reports of large meteors and meteor explosions, looking for these incredibly valuable fragments.


Eta Aquarids Night of May 5 Sets after midnight
Comet 209P/LINEAR Night of May 23 Early morning crescent
Perseids Night of August 12 In view most of the night
Orionids Night of October 21 Dawn crescent
Leonids Nights of November 16/17 Early morning crescent
Geminids Night of December 13 In view after midnight


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