Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks this week
WASHINGTON — The Delta Aquariid meteor shower puts on one long summer show in July and August, but it will peak at the end of July.
The meter shower began July 12 and is active until August 23. A new moon on Wednesday and Thursday will provide optimal dark skies for spotting meteors. But the peak actually began Sunday, and the best chance to see them without the moon in the way will be the first week of August.
The best time to see them will be about 3 a.m. ET, but the meteor shower will also be viewable when the sky is darkest in the overnight hours until the first light of dawn.
Expect to see about 20 meteors per hour during the peak, traveling at 25 miles per second.
The Delta Aquariid meteors are more faint than others, and they’re more apparent in the Southern Hemisphere, according to NASA. But you can still see them in the Northern Hemisphere’s southern latitudes. Some of the Delta Aquariid meteors leave glowing gas trails that linger for a few seconds after they burn up in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
If you miss your chance now, the Delta Aquariids will also be visible as they overlap with another meteor shower in August, the Perseids.
Delta Aquariids appear to come from the constellation Aquarius, visible in the southern part of the sky, while the Perseids will be in the northern part of the sky. The Aquariids take their name from the third-brightest star in the Aquarius constellation, called Delta.
The Delta Aquariid meteor shower is created by comet 96P/Machholz. The comet, which completes an orbit around the sun every five years, was discovered by amateur astronomer Donald Machholz in 1986.
Patience is key for viewing the meteors. It can take up to 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark for optimal viewing. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but they look the brightest against the darkest sky, which is straight up. Some meteors have only faint, quick streaks. Others are brighter and can appear to sail across our sky for several seconds, leaving a glowing smoke trail.
The best way to view the meteor shower is by sitting in a reclining lawn chair or lying on your back and looking up at the sky with a wide view. No special equipment is needed, but it helps to be as far from artificial light as possible. If you live in an urban area, you might want to take a drive to avoid city lights, which can make the meteor shower seem faint. Scientists from NASA also said that camping out in the country can triple the amount of visible meteors.
And don’t forget to grab your camera before you head out. Meteor showers are a great opportunity for time-lapse videos and long-exposure photography, allowing your shots of the night sky to turn into van Gogh-like paintings of this starry spectacle.