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This weekend, early risers may be treated to meteor showers

Image of an eta aquarid meteor
Image of an eta aquarid meteor

Meteors are what some of us call "shooting stars," and if there's enough darkness, there should be plenty to see in the hours before dawn. It's happening this Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Craig Joseph teaches astronomy at St. Petersburg College and directs its planetarium on the Gibbs campus. He said you needn't travel to try to see the meteors, but keep away from big lights.

"Be in a place where there aren't any street lights or floodlights in the immediate area. And unfortunately for meteor showers, the best time to see them is in the wee hours of the morning. The closer to dawn, the better. Between maybe 2 and 5 a.m., that would be the prime time," he said.

The display this weekend comes from the Eta Aquarids, caused by debris left by Halley's comet as it passes near the sun.

Joseph said the meteors are named for the constellation they appear to be coming from.

He said the Eta Aquarids aren't as spectacular as the Perseid or Leonid meteor showers, and the best place to see them is in the Southern Hemisphere. But this year, there could be a bigger show.

"There are some reasons to believe we're passing through a denser clump of material in the debris path of this comet, which might actually double the number of meteors that we would normally see," he said.

That means perhaps 40 or 50 meteors per hour, beginning at around 2 each morning for the next few days.

And this will be happening around the time of a new moon, so its light won't interfere with seeing the meteors.

According to NASA, Eta Aquarids are known for their speed and glowing "trains" that follow in their wakes.

These meteors travel at about 148,000 mph.

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Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.
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