Meteorshower_A_303x211: File photo of an Eta Aquarid meteor streaking over northern Georgia, on April 29, 2012

File photo of an Eta Aquarid meteor streaking over northern Georgia, on April 29, 2012 (© NASA/MSFC/B. Cooke)

Dark skies will be streaked with incandescent bits of burning space debris this weekend as the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower reaches its maximum level.

Composed of particles of ice and dust from the tail of famed Halley's comet, the Etas happen every spring from early April into late May.

According to NASA, prime time for this extraterrestrial extravaganza will occur around 9 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 5, when 30 to 40 meteors might be visible per hour. Even better, the Etas are known to create fireballs, the brightest class of meteor. They can shine brighter than planets such as Mars and Venus.

Significant meteors are forecasted for tonight, Saturday, too. The showers can be seen until dawn breaks.

The shower takes its name from the constellation Aquarius, the "Water Carrier," as it appears to radiate from this pattern of stars in the sky. The tag "Eta" comes from the designation of a star in the constellation.

To find Aquarius, look to the southeast portion of the sky after dusk, slightly above the horizon. Luckily, the crescent moon this weekend is waning, making for inky skies perfect for meteor watching.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's tips for meteor watching include heading into the country away from city lights; not using binoculars or telescopes; and turning off light-emitting devices such as smartphones. If some illumination is needed, opt for a flashlight with a red filter. Other than that, just let your eyes adjust to the dark and watch for the telltale flashes.

Weather: Find weekend meteor-watching weather conditions near you


If you happen to glimpse a fireball, the American Meteor Society's Web page features a reporting app that's open to anyone to use. For even more science interaction with the Etas, NASA will be holding a live webchat Sunday night from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., during the shower.

Travel: The starriest skies in the world


According to EarthSky.org, the next major meteor shower to grace the skies won't be until August, when the Perseids make their yearly summer appearance. So now's the time to maximize your springtime astronomy quotient.

Bing: See photos of past Eta Aquarid meteor showers


News: Catch up on more science stories


Travel: Cozy places to view the northern lights