Star trails and a Geminid meteor over Brasstown Bald Mountain, Georgia, the US, in 1985. Picture courtesy Nasa
The early morning sky on Wednesday will be lit up by a meteor shower.
The celestial fireworks — an Eta Aquarid meteor shower — will result from Earth’s passage through the dusty debris of Halley’s Comet.
In Calcutta, the fireworks can be seen for one-and-a-half hours from 2am, though the peak time will be till 2.30am.
“Earth will cross a stream of dusty debris from Halley’s, causing the Eta Aquarid meteor shower,” said Debiprosad Duari, the director (research and academics) of MP Birla Planetarium.
Halley’s Comet last visited Earth in 1986 and will make the next trip in 2061.
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower occurs every year, with meteoroids hitting the atmosphere at a speed of 66 km per second.
“Although the comet is now at a great distance, beyond the orbit of Uranus, it had left behind a stream of dust. Earth passes through the stream twice a year, in May and October. The May phenomenon is called Eta Aquarids and the October event, Orionids,” Duari pointed out.
The Eta Aquarids are named after Eta Aquarii, one of the brightest stars of the constellation Aquarius. The meteors emerge from a point close to the star.
Astronomers said Halley’s debris comprise particles no bigger than grains of sand.
“Although the debris particles are very small, they make brilliant shooting stars when they strike Earth’s atmosphere at high speed,” Duari said.
The show can be enjoyed with all its grandeur as it coincides with New Moon, meaning there will be no lunar glare.
Sky watchers in Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa will witness the best of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
In the city and elsewhere in the country, the meteor shower rates will be comparatively low at less than 30 per hour.