Courtesy of the cosmos, Sydney’s night sky will be the stage for a spectacular light show this week. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower, which occurs over Australia every May, delivers some of the brightest and most numerous meteor sightings of any of the Earth’s annual showers, offering a far better chance of glimpsing a fireball than the recent Lyrids event. The shower is created when the Earth makes its yearly pass through the dust trail left by the famous Halley’s Comet, and it’s one of the only annual meteor showers that’s best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.
While this cosmic display is well worth watching, there is a catch: you’ll need to forgo some of your usual shuteye to see it. The peak of the Eta Aquariid shower this year is due between 2am and 5am on the morning of May 6, when you'll be able to see as many as 50 meteors an hour. If you need your sleep, there will still be some notable activity for approximately 24-hours after this, and intermittent meteors for another couple of weeks.
The good news is, clear skies are forecast tonight over Sydney, so there won’t be any frustrating cloud cover to spoil your view. Stargazers will also be able to see three of the solar system’s brightest planets – Venus, Mars and Saturn – in the same region of sky as the shower and those in darker parts of New South Wales may even be able to see the wispy haze of the Milky Way. Astronomers recommend allowing your eyes at least 20-minutes to adjust to the darkness, so don't give up hope if you can't immediately see any falling stars.