Backyard Observatory

The First Big Meteor Shower of Spring Has Arrived. Here's How to See It.

Get out there and enjoy a beautiful display with 40 meteors per hour.

It’s been just a short stretch since the Lyrid meteor shower brought the first good view of meteors since January. This week, the planet will crash through the dust stream left behind by Halley’s Comet. As the debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up, it will create the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

The display will peak the morning of Sunday, May 5, though there should be a good predawn view for a couple of days in a row. Unlike the more tepid Lyrids, the Eta Aquarids are more active and, best of all, will fall on a night when the moon won’t cause interference. This shower is also known for the presence of some bright “shooting stars” as a part of the show.

The spectacular showcase could provide up to 40 meteors per hour, Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Offer tells Thrillist. The moon will be at or near new, ensuring it doesn’t obstruct your view of the meteors.

How to watch the Eta Aquarid meteor shower

This shower is best seen in the southern hemisphere, so in the northern hemisphere, you’ll get a better view the closer you are to the equator. That’s partly because this shower’s radiant -- the point from which the meteors appear to emanate -- sits low in the sky. That point is the star Eta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius.

However, that doesn’t mean you should look straight at the radiant to see the most meteors. They’ll be moving away from the radiant, so lay back and take in as much of the sky as you can.

To achieve the best view, you’ll also want to get away from the light pollution of urban centers, Cooke said. You want a place with dark skies and no obstructions along the horizon. Also, hopefully, you’ve got clear weather, otherwise you won’t see much. It’s also worth getting to your spot early. Your eyes will need time to adjust to the darkness.

The Aquarids will be a good show in 2019, a year when many of the best showers are competing with an unfavorable moon. It’s worth catching this one because it’s going to be August before there’s another good meteor shower for you to catch.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer on the news team at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.