Meteors From Halley's Comet Fly Over a Medieval Church

Halley's Comet is next expected in 2061, but you can see a bit of the famous comet every year, twice a year.

In May and October, fragments from Halley's Comet left in its orbit hit Earth's atmosphere.

As science news site Earthsky explains, the May event is named the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, after the star Eta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius.

As the apparent positions of the stars change throughout the night, these meteors all appear to emerge from the same point in the sky as that star—although the star is much, much farther away.

Peak activity happened this year around May 5.

<p>The Milky Way glows over the Rocky Mountain range in <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/article/grand-teton-national-park" target="_blank">Grand Teton National Park</a>.</p>

The Milky Way glows over the Rocky Mountain range in Grand Teton National Park.

Photograph by Babak Tafreshi, Nat Geo Image Collection

Earthsky notes that, because the biggest show usually happens just before dawn, the Southern Hemisphere tends to get a better view. That's because their nights are longer this time of year, squeezing in a little extra time before the sun blots out the shower.

This time, though, some northerners had a chance for a good look.

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This time-lapse sequence combines hundreds of 25-second exposure snapshots ending with dawn on May 6. The angle is a low vantage in the churchyard of St Barbara's, a medieval parish still in use in Ashton under Hill.

The village in Worcestershire, England, is about 40 miles from the University of Oxford, where Edmond Halley taught when he published his theory of the orbital period for the comet that would one day bear his name. [Read about another comet from Halley's lifetime, and the strange attempt to connect it to the Biblical flood.]

If you'd like another go at seeing some pieces of Halley's Comet this year—or any year—in October you can look for the Orionid meteor shower, which can offer an even more abundant series of flashes in the sky.

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