The Eta Aquarid meteor shower 2013 peak, fresh on the heels of the Lyrids, is expected on May 5. This weekend the Georgetown University Astronomical Society invites the public for some stargazing at Heyden Observatory.
The weather forecast for the DC area calls for mostly clear skies on May 4 and May 5, so that may be your best time to catch a glimpse. The best viewing will likely be in the 4- to 5-hour period before dawn.
Georgetown University is offering several events this weekend that are open to the DC community and take place at Heyden Observatory on the main campus:
- Saturday, May 4, Noon to 3 p.m. Open house/tour
- Saturday, May 4, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Stargazing event with the Georgetown University Astronomical Society
- Sunday, May 5, Noon to 3 p.m. Open house/tour
According to a press release, "Georgetown's Francis J. Heyden Observatory is the third oldest in the country (founded in 1841) and was used in 1846 to determine the latitude and longitude of Washington, D.C. Until 1972, the observatory housed Georgetown’s world-renowned astronomy department. It's now used by the Georgetown Astronomical Society and the biology department."
The Observatory is one of 24 local historic sites competing for a share of $1 million in grants through the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Partners in Preservation Program. You can vote here: http://bit.ly/bestarstuck.
Eta Aquarids get their name from Aquarius, the constellation you'll look toward to catch what have come to be known as "shooting stars" -- which aren't shooting stars at all. What you will actually see are flakes of dust from Halley's Comet.
In May and October, Earth passes through the stream of dust in Halley's wake, giving us first the Eta Aquarid meteor shower and then the Orionids.
You can see what to look for in this video of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.