After a lull of a few months, meteor madness is set to descend once again, starting with the Delta Aquarids, which peak before dawn on Tuesday July 29.
They are best viewed starting at about 2 a.m. Daylight Saving Time, until dawn arrives. The farther south you are, the better the shower will be, though it will permeate all but the northernmost skies.
Skies will be plenty dark this time around, since the crescent moon will set in the early evening, Earthsky.org tells us. Though the Delta Aquarids are normally tepid, with most of its 15-20 hourly meteors faint, the extra darkness will be the viewer’s ally. The shower stems from Mother Earth’s journey through the orbital path of Comet 96P/Machholz, according to Earthsky.org. The shooting stars appear to emanate from the star Delta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius; hence their name.
The comet residue will slam into Earth’s atmosphere at 90,000 mph, which will transform them from grit into incandescent bursts of light, Astronomy.com says. The event will be livestreamed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center from a telescope in Alabama. Here’s more on the Delta Aquarids from NASA.
But that’s just the beginning of the fun. The better-known Perseids are set to hit Mother Earth’s skies in August, during the tail end of the Aquarids, though moonlight will intervene. That makes the Delta Aquarids the ones to watch for this summer. Those who don't want to go outside in the dead of night can see the festivities livestreamed via the Slooh Space Camera.
“This is a long, rambling shower that’ll stretch out for weeks beyond the peak, combining with the Perseid meteor shower peak on August 11-13,” says Earthsky.org. “So if you miss the shower tonight, keep watching!”