Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower


May 5, 6 and 7, 2009 Eta Aquarids

The shower has a relatively broad maximum but is expected to peak shortly before dawn on May 5 or 6. Although a waxing gibbous moon lights up most of the night, it’s not really a factor. This is strictly a predawn shower, not to take stage till after moonset! The radiant for this shower appears in the east-southeast at about 4 a.m. and the hour or two before dawn is the preferred viewing time. For the mid-northern latitudes, the rates for this shower are only about 10 to 15 per hour at maximum. Farther south, the meteor numbers increase dramatically. The broad peak to this shower means that some meteors may be seen a few days before and after the optimal date. The best time to watch is May 5 or 6 before dawn. But you’ll see some meteors before dawn on May 7 as well.

The Sky On April 2009


The Moon is in particularly fine form this month. It stages close encounters with all five of the naked-eye planets -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn -- as well as the stars Regulus and Antares. On the morning of the 13th it will cover up Antares as seen from Hawaii and parts of Mexico, and on the 22nd it will cover up Venus as seen from most of the continental United States. The Moon even cooperates for the Lyrid meteor shower; at the shower's peak, the Moon is a thin crescent in the pre-dawn sky, so there's little moonlight to interfere with the show.

5 Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, stands a little to the left or upper left of the Moon at nightfall. The planet Saturn is below them.

6 Saturn, which looks like a bright golden star, aligns quite close to the Moon this evening, with Regulus above them.

12 Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius, huddles close to the Moon tonight. It is close to the Moon's lower left as they rise after midnight, and even closer at first light. As seen from Hawaii, the Moon will briefly cover up Antares on the morning of the 13th.

18 The brilliant planet Jupiter stands a little to the lower left of the Moon at first light. They are low in the southeast.

21 The Lyrid meteor shower is at its best tonight.

22 The Moon, Venus, and Mars congregate low in the east at first light. The Moon will pass across the face of Venus, briefly hiding the planet from view.

26 The Moon, the Pleiades, and the planet Mercury align low in the west-northwest as night falls. The Pleiades star cluster is a little below the Moon, with Mercury about the same distance below the Pleiades. Mercury looks like a fairly bright star. Binoculars will enhance the view.

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