The yearly Perseids meteor shower is expected to light up the sky next month. Until then, astronomers – and everyone else – can enjoy the Delta Aquarids meteor shower starting today until August 23, which will have up to 20 flashes per hour, The Daily Mail reports.
On July 28 and 29, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower will be making fireworks, especially visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. Composed of celestial fireballs speeding and streaking through the sky, this meteor shower happens several times a year.
While the peak for the Delta Aquarids will be at the end of July, the meteor shower will continue to put on a spectacular show until August 23, overlapping with the Perseids, which begins in mid-August.
Catching a glimpse of the Delta Aquarids show largely depends on location, and the best time to watch the sky is around midnight. Because meteors can be quite faint without a telescope, it’s best to observe the meteor shower in a dark sky, free of moonlight and artificial lights from buildings.
For those who will be unable to view the meteors live, there’s some good news. Slooh, an online observatory, will be live streaming the Delta Aquarids from an observatory in the Canary Islands, with a running commentary from meteorologists regarding what’s going on, as well as a question-and-answer potion with viewers.
Meteor showers occur when a comet passes close to the sun, producing debris, called meteoroids, that spread around the comet’s orbit. The Earth sees the debris as a meteor shower when its orbit overlaps with the comet’s.
Since meteoroids all move on a parallel path at the same speed, they seem to come from a single point in the sky during a meteor shower, known as the radiant.
Meteor showers are generally named after the constellation their radiant lies in. The Delta Aquarids, for example, is named so because its radiant appears in the constellation Aquarius, near one of the brightest stars named Delta Aquarii.
Because the Delta Aquarids shower overlaps with the Perseid shower, it can be difficult to tell which one is happening. Working out the radiant to check on which constellation the meteors are coming from will help identify them. When viewed from the northern hemisphere, the Delta Aquarids will appear to come from the south, while the Perseids from the south. When viewed from the southern hemisphere, the Delta Aquarids will appear to come from just overhead, and the Perseids from the north.