Summer time! The season for swimming, the outdoors, hotdogs, and laying-back-on-grass meteor shower viewing! Typically, one of the best showers of the year is the annual Perseids meteor shower–with an average of 50-60 meteors per hour during its peak, it outshines the minor Delta Aquarids.
However, a full moon happens to coincide with the Perseids on August 12th, washing out all but the brightest meteors, and in the process greatly decreasing the number of meteors visible to the human eye. The chief celestial event of the summer may be difficult to observe, but the Delta Aquarids peaking on the night of July 29th may take the crown of most satisfying celestial event to watch this summer.
The Delta Aquarids meteor shower will peak on the night of July 29th, during which you can expect to see 15-25 bright, yellow, shooting stars per hour against a dark and clear sky. Each meteor will be travelling at a temperate speed of 25.5 miles/41 kilometers per second.
Like most meteor showers, the Delta Aquarids get their name from the location of their radiant, the point in which the meteors appear to come from in the sky. The radiant of the Delta Aquarids lies in the constellation Aquarius, near one of the constellation’s brightest stars, Delta Aquarii.
Meteor showers occur as Earth passes through a trail of space junk and rubble that is left in the wake of a comet. Because our planet moves at an amazing speed of 67,000 miles/107,826 kilometers per hour, all the particles rapidly burn up in our atmosphere as “shooting stars”.
You don’t have to be professional stargazer or even an amateur astronomer to observe any of the major and most minor meteor shower, all it takes s a dark environment and a gaze up at the sky.
When and where to look
The best time to observe the 2011 Delta Aquarids meteor shower is during the hours just before dawn, as the constellation Aquarius is at its highest point in the sky at this time. This year, the Moon will be past its Third Quarter phase, so there will not be any natural interference in the sky. With that said, unnatural interference may determine how many meteors you see tonight.
To greatly improve your chances of catching the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, do your best to get away from any light pollution, as the amount of light you’re surrounded by can make a huge difference. This is especially true if you live around bright city lights.
After you’ve found a nice dark environment to observe, let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 20 minutes in order to get an increased level of night-vision capability. Get comfortable and look toward the southeastern portion of the sky. Due to the amount of time it may take for you to spot a meteor blazing through the night sky, you may want to bring a blanket to lie down on or a reclining chair. You may also want to bring a neck pillow for extra comfort. Once you’ve settled in, simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
Where will it be viewable?
The 2011 Delta Aquarids will be viewable over most of Earth, but greatly favors the southern hemisphere of the planet, along with tropical latitudes in the northern hemisphere. This is because of the radiant’s higher altitude in the southern hemisphere and because it’s winter–skies are much more transparent during this season.
Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean islands, Indonesia, Philippines, and South America will get the best viewing, but those in North America, Asia, and Europe will still be able to observe activity.
The Delta Aquarids aren’t the best meteor shower in terms of overall activity, but this year may prove to be a wonderful viewing experience for those who are skipping out on the moonerific Perseids in August.