The north-eastern Horizon as seen from Adelaide at 4:30 am ACST, the eta Aquariid radiant is marked with a starburst. Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).
Weather prediction looks good with clear mornings for most of Australia (except the bit where I live)
You may have read that this year the eta Aquariids have a predicted ZHR of 50 meteors. The figure ZHR is zenithal hourly rate. This is the number of meteors that a single observer would see per hour if the shower’s “point of origin”, or radiant, were at the zenith and the sky was dark enough for 6.5-magnitude stars to be visible to the naked eye.
In practice, you will never see this many meteors as the radiant will be some distance below the zenith. Also, unless you are out deep in the countryside, the darkness will be less than ideal. How many are you likely to see in reality?
The table below gives predictions below for various towns, but they are only predictions and while based on average steam density there may be some differences year to year, but good rates were seen in previous years, and dark sky sites may possibly see one meteor every 4-5 minutes or so. There were many bright ones reported with persistent trains in 2014. People in the suburbs maybe will see less, but at least one every 6 minutes should be possible.
Predicted meteor rates for selected towns (taken from NASA shower Flux estimator below). If your city is not on the list you can expect a meteor rate similar to the closest city to you in latitude.
|Town||Morning May 7||Morning May 8||Morning May 9|
|Adelaide||14 meteors/hr||16 meteors/hr||15 meteors/hr|
|Brisbane||15 meteors/hr||17 meteors/hr||16 meteors/hr|
|Darwin||16 meteors/hr||18 meteors/hr||17bmeteors/hr|
|Perth||15 meteors/hr||17 meteors/hr||15 meteors/hr|
|Melbourne||13 meteors/hr||16 meteors/hr||15 meteors/hr|
|Hobart||13 meteors/hr||16 meteors/hr||15 meteors/hr|
|Sydney||14 meteors/hr||17 meteors/hr||15 meteors/hr|
The radiant of the shower is about five hand-spans up from the eastern horizon and three hand-spans to the left of due east at 4 am (see above for a spotter chart at 5 am). When looking, be sure to let your eyes adjust for at least 5 minutes so your eyes can be properly adapted to the dark.
Don’t look directly at the radiant site, because the meteors will often start their “burn” some distance from it, but around a hand-span up or to the side. The best way to watch the Eta Aquariids is to let your eye rove around the entire patch of the sky above the north-east horizon, between the only two obvious bright stars in the northeast, Altair and Fomalhaut, and Jupiter and Saturn as the centre of your field (again, see the spotter chart at 4:30 am above).
Be patient, although you should see an average of a meteor every 3 to 6 minutes, a whole stretch of time can go by without a meteor, then a whole bunch turn up one after the other.
Make yourself comfortable, choose an observing site that has little to obstruct the eastern horizon, have a comfortable chair to sit in (a banana lounger is best), or blankets and pillows. Rug up against the cold. A hot Thermos of something to drink and plenty of mosquito protection will complete your observing preparations. As well as meteors, keep an eye out for satellites (see Heavens Above for predictions from your site). The Milky way will arch above you, with Jupiter and Saturn just above te radiant.
Use the NASA meteor shower flux estimator for an estimate of what the shower will be like from your location (you may need to enter your longitude and latitude, surprisingly, while Adelaide and Brisbane are hard-wired in, Sydney and Melbourne are not). See the image to the left for typical output. The peak is rather sharp.
Unfortunately, both Chrome and Firefox have changed their security settings to prevent plugins from running, and the flux estimator only runs under Internet Explorer now.
Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.
Here is the near-real time satellite view of the clouds (day and night) http://satview.bom.gov.au/
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