The Eta Aquarid meteor shower

Practically on the heels of the Lyrid meteor shower (April 19 - 25) follows one of the best meteor showers of the spring: the Eta Aquarids. Like the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December, the Eta Aquarid shower gets its name from the area of the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate - in this case, a star designated by the Greek letter Eta (n) in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer.

The Eta Aquarids first appear around April 21, and some can be seen until May 21. But the shower's peak occurs around May 4. Though Aquarius rises about 2:30 a.m. this week, meteors may be seen higher in the sky as well as to the north and south of the constellation's location at that time. You may want to wait until 3 or 4 a.m. when the radiant is well above the horizon.

The average number of Eta Aquarid meteors seen per hour is listed as 60, but you're not likely to see that many, especially if you're located in a brightly lit suburban area or if there is a beaming Moon in the sky. Under such conditions, you may see only a handful per hour. If you scan the sky with binoculars, however, you might see a few zip by in the field of view. Also helpful is the fact that many of these meteors are bright yellow, and thus easier to see from moderately light-polluted skies. A few will likely leave brief smoke trails in their wake.

From a dark-sky site, you may be able to see between 20 and 30 meteors per hour, particularly if the shower's peak time occurs when it is dark on your side of the planet.

Also this week:

• Vega rises an hour or so after the Sun this week for those at northern lati tudes.

• In the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross is on the meridian about

9 o'clock. (Observers in the Northern Hemisphere see May 24 - 30.)

May 10-16

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