Would you like to see a piece of Halley's comet? Now's your chance! Each spring as Earth passes through the debris trail from Halley's Comet (1P/Halley), the cosmic bits burn up in our atmosphere and result in the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
In 2011 the peak will occur on the night of May 5 and into the morning of May 6.
A dark new moon on May 3 will help darken the night skies for a good viewing experience, with meteor rates of about 40-60 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. Ideal viewing conditions are a dark, clear sky away from city lights, especially just before dawn.
On May 5, you can join NASA experts for a pair of live Web chats to observe this year's Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The afternoon chat will be held from 3-4 p.m. EDT - then make plans to stay "up all night" with NASA experts from 11 p.m. EDT (May 5) until 5 a.m. EDT (May 6).
The overnight Web chat will also include a Ustream view of the skies over the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. So get ready to help NASA watch the skies!
The Eta Aquarids are pieces of debris from Halley's Comet, which is a well-known comet that is viewable from Earth approximately every 76 years. Also known as 1P/Halley, this comet was last viewable from Earth in 1986 and won't be visible again until the middle of 2061.
The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower gets its name because the radiant - or direction of origin - of the meteors appears to come from the constellation Aquarius.