Meteor Frenzy!

By Katharina Rast

Attention all meteor lovers!!!

If you’ve been aching to see some good meteors, the next few weeks are going to give you the chance you’ve been waiting for! The Delta Aquarid shower will reach its predicted peak around July 28 and 29. And, in early to mid-August, the awesome Perseids will be taking their turn, with an added bonus this year! Astronomers are predicting an outburst of Perseids—roughly double their usual rate–near the showers’ peak!!!

When is the best time to watch for these beauties? As with most meteor showers, the hours between midnight and dawn are the best time to catch both the Delta Aquarids and the Perseids. The Delta Aquarids produce 10 to 20 meteors per hour, radiating from the constellation Aquarius, in the southern region of the sky.

Image Courtesy of Stellarium Software, edited by author

And, the Perseids will be radiating from the constellation Perseus, in the east or northeast. At their peak, they produce up to 100 meteors per hour on a normal year. This year, though, on the night of August 11-12, they are predicted to produce roughly twice that amount. That’s up to 200 meteors per hour!

Image Courtesy of Stellarium Software, edited by author
Image Courtesy of Stellarium Software, edited by author

There’s a handy trick for discerning between Delta Aquarids and Perseids. Delta Aqurids travel from the south. And Perseids come from the north. Since the showers overlap somewhat, you might even catch two meteors cross paths!

One trick for getting the most out of meteor showers, though, is reckoning with the current moon phase. Moonlight tends to drown out the fainter meteors, and reduces the dramatic effect for all of them.

Fortunately for us, the waning crescent moon won’t pose too much of a problem for the Delta Aquarids’ peak on July 28 and 29. In Kindersley, it will rise around 1 a.m. on July 28, and roughly 50 minutes later on the following night. That’s right around the best meteor-watching times, true, but luckily it’ll only be a crescent.  So you’ll still have fairly dark skies for the peak hours, and completely moonless skies for observing in the evening if you’re not a night owl.

If you want the full benefit of a dark sky for the Perseids, however, you should plan your observing times for the early predawn hours of the peak days—that’s August 11, 12, and 13. Not only will the radiant point be highest in the sky at that time, but the waxing gibbous moon will set around midnight. Observers with clear skies then will get a real treat, and they might even see the predicted outburst of 200 meteors per hour!!

Read more by Katharina on her page Sky Watcher