The Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower Peaks This Week, Here's How to See It
The Delta Aquariids aren't the most active meteor shower, but they land at a perfect time this year.
After a long drought following May’s Eta Aquariid meteor shower, meteor showers are back on the calendar in July and August.
The Delta Aquariids will peak on the night of July 29. The shower isn’t the most impressive meteor shower of the year, but it does have one big advantage: The moon will not interfere with your viewing experience. That's something not all of the displays in 2022 can say. So, you'll be able to see the 15 to 20 meteors per hour that EarthSky suggests you might see from the Delta Aquariids in 2022.
The peak landing near July 28's new moon is significant because strong moonlight can obscure dimmer objects in the sky. Still, the Delta Aquariids are not a spectacular show like the Perseids or the Geminids in years when they're at their best. (They aren't at their best this year.)
Even if it's not a storm of shooting stars, there are aspects of the Delta Aquariids that might make them appealing to would-be stargazers. As EarthSky notes, the Delta Aquariids do not have a hard peak. That means that the days around the peak should be decent nights to look for meteors as well.
However, the Delta Aquariids are best seen in the southern hemisphere, per EarthSky. So, stargazers in the US do not get quite as good of a show, and the viewing tends to be better the further south you are. The Delta Aquariids mostly produce faint, medium-speed meteors. Though, there are some brighter shooting stars typically present with persistent trains, per Space.com.
Fortunately, the Perseid meteor shower has started. It lasts runs from July 17 to August 24, per NASA. This far from its mid-August peak you will not see many Perseids. Yet, you should still be able to spot some accenting the Delta Aquariids if you're out stargazing this week.
How to See the Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower
If you’re heading out into the night to see the Delta Aquariids, the best time to go out, according to multiple sources, is after midnight up until dawn, as is typical for most meteor showers.
Any meteor shower requires you to get away from urban areas. Any light pollution from nearby cities will impede your ability to stargaze. It's also helpful to arrive a little before the time when you are aiming to look. Your eyes need time to adjust to the darkness and this can take longer than you might expect. Additionally, looking at lights such as those in the car, a flashlight, or your phone resets your night vision and negatively impacts your ability to see dimmer objects. Stargazers recommend using a red light flashlight or even just putting a piece of red cellophane over your flashlight. Red light does not negatively impact your night vision like other lights.
You can look anywhere in the sky to find meteors. However, it helps to orient yourself by finding a shower's radiant. That’s the point from which the meteors appear to emanate. The radiant for the Delta Aquariids—it actually has two, per Space.com, but finding one will do—is near the star Delta Aquarii just above the bright star Fomalhaut and below the Great Square of Pegasus in the southern sky. You can use a free app like Star Walk 2 to help locate those stars (and other night-sky objects like star clusters, constellations, and planets).
You do not need to look right at the radiant, though. Meteors move away from that point and don't cross it. So, you may actually miss some if you’re looking directly at the radiant. Look a bit away from that point while leaning back to take in as much of the sky as possible.
The Delta Aquariids might have increased appeal in 2022 because the Perseids won't be the Perseids. The moon will impede what otherwise might be 90 meteors an hour from that mid-summer spectacular. Adam Mann at the New York Times has suggested that 15 to 20 meteors per hour will be visible despite the moon's interference.
So, the Perseids may have a similar output to the Delta Aquariids in terms of what you can see with the naked eye. That makes this late-July display worth checking out.