Halley’s Comet and a BIG Moon
This weekend gives sky watchers a chance to catch a glimpse of pieces of Halley’s Comet as the Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks. Unfortunately the largest full Moon of 2012 will be in attendance brightening the sky leaving many of the meteors hidden from view.
Comet Halley is probably the most well known of all the comets and its 76 year journey takes it across the orbit of the Earth. As it completes it orbit, it leaves behind a trail of rocks and dust of varying sizes and when the Earth intercepts them we are treated to the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The expected peak will come in the early hours of the 6th May (before sunrise rather than early evening) where up to 20 meteors may be seen in an hour.
Unfortunately this all co-incides with a full Moon but not just ANY full Moon, the biggest and brightest of 2012. The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is elliptical so on occasions it gets just a little bit closer. If it gets close during a full Moon it makes it appear even bigger in the sky. This means that most of the Eta Aquarid meteors will be washed out by the light of the Moon. It is worth trying to catch a glimpse of the full Moon rising though as an optical illusion enhances its size and will make it seem incredibly large.