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The shower is named after a 4th-magnitude star in the constellation Aquarius. The star has nothing to do with the meteor shower except that, coincidentally, meteors appear to emerge from a point nearby. Eta Aquarii is 156 light years from Earth and 44 times more luminous than the Sun.
The constellation Aquarius does not rise very far above the horizon in the northern hemisphere, and that's why northerners see relatively few meteors. But the ones they do see could be spectacular Earthgrazers.
Earthgrazers are meteors that skim horizontally through the upper atmosphere. They are slow and dramatic, streaking far across the sky. The best time to look for Earthgrazers is between 2:00 to 2:30 a.m. local time when Aquarius is just peeking above the horizon.
Experienced meteor watchers suggest the following viewing strategy: Dress warmly. Bring a reclining chair, or spread a thick blanket over a flat spot of ground. Lie down and look up somewhat toward the east. Meteors can appear in any part of the sky, although their trails will point back toward Aquarius.
Eta Aquarid meteoroids hit Earth's atmosphere traveling 66 km/s.
Typical eta Aquarid meteors are as bright as a 3rd magnitude star.
For most observers, the Eta Aquariids are only visible during the last couple
hours before the start of morning twilight. The reason for this is that the
radiant is situated approximately sixty degrees west of the sun. Therefore it
rises before the sun in the morning hours. The time of radiant rise is between
2:00 and 3:00 local daylight time (LDT), depending on your longitude. The real
key is the latitude. There is an observing window for this shower between the
time the radiant rises and the beginning of morning nautical twilight. This
window ranges from zero at 60 degrees north latitude to all night in Antarctica.
Unfortunately in Antarctica, the radiant never rises very high in the sky. The
best combination of a large observing window and a decent radiant altitude
occurs between the equator and 30 degrees south latitude. From this area the
radiant reaches a maximum altitude of 50 degrees at nautical twilight. The
observing window ranges from 3.5 hours at the equator to slightly over 4.0 at 30
degrees south latitude. Going further south will increase your observing window
but the maximum altitude will begin to fall closer to the horizon.
Since most meteor observers live in the northern hemisphere, here are the
conditions at several different latitudes: the observing window for 50N is 1.5
hours with a radiant altitude of 15 degrees. The observing window for 40N is
2.25 hours with a radiant altitude of 25 degrees. The observing window for 30N
is 2.75 hours with a radiant altitude of 35 degrees.