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Eta Aquarids Struggle Against Blazing Moonlight on Cinco de Mayo

The Eta Aquarid meteors will be all but drowned out by moonlight, but watch for them anyway on May 6 after 3 a.m.
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Squint and you might catch a glimpse of the Eta Aquarids, debris from Halley’s Comet, if you get up before dawn on Wednesday May 6.

That is the best shot one has at seeing them in the light of the blazing moon, which turned full on May 3.

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“Unfortunately, Full Moon occurred just a few nights ago, and its bright light will wash out fainter meteors and render the brighter ones less impressive,” says Astronomy.com. “Don’t give up hope, however. The shower’s radiant—the point from which the meteors appear to emanate—rises in the east around 3 a.m. local daylight time. With the moon then in the southern sky, position yourself where buildings or tall trees block its light.”

The best time to catch what you can of them is indeed after 3 a.m. local time, says Earthsky.org. And if you’re lucky you might glimpse one that leaves a trail across the sky. Meteors are also falling during Cinco de Mayo, but the peak night is May 6.

“This year, 2015 is not a particularly favorable year, as a bright moon will be shining during the prime time hours of this meteor shower, in the dark hours before dawn,” Earthsky.com says. Meteor buffs will be on the lookout, despite the moonlit glare, knowing these swift-moving meteors frequently leave persistent trains.”

Halley’s Comet, the Eta Aquarids’ parent, takes 76 years to orbit the sun. Earth passes through the debris stream twice annually, creating two meteor showers. The second one of the year is flashier and thus better known, the Orionids, peaking in October.

Meanwhile, though, intrepid sky watchers can soak up a bit of soft, balmy night spring air while straining to wish upon a falling star. It will be better visible the farther south you go, with the best show being in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The best viewing time is roughly from about two hours to one hour before sunrise,” says Earthsky.org. “No matter where you live, the last hour of darkness just before dawn tends to feature the greatest number of meteors.”