The peak of the Eta Aquarids shower, a flurry of up to 30 meteors an hour, will happen soon: The best time to catch this year’s display is between May 5 and May 6. It’s the result of Earth barging through a cloud of space debris—imagine driving on the highway behind a sloppy gravel truck—but the stuff that’s disintegrating above our heads is actually dust and flakes left behind by Halley’s Comet, aka 1/P Halley.
Halley’s Comet is named after English astronomer Edmond Halley, who in 1705 used Isaac Newton’s theories of physics to calculate the its orbit. The ball of dirty ice cruises around the sun, orbiting opposite Earth’s motion to pass beyond Neptune’s path, and swings back into Earthlings’ view every 75 or so years.
[Related: The biggest comet ever found is cruising through our solar system’s far reaches]
This happens with such regularity that Mark Twain, born in 1835, wrote that he “came in with Halley’s Comet“; the author expected “to go out with it” when it returned in 1910. (Sure enough, Twain died in April of that year.) The last time humans could spy the object in the sky, unaided, was in 1986. Those of us around in mid-2061 will have the chance to see it again.
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