A Brilliant Late-Summer Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight. Here's How to See It.
Despite it being a good month to catch Saturn bright in the night sky, it's been a while since we've had a good meteor shower that was worth lying out in the grass late staring up at the heavens. That will change this weekend. The Southern Delta...
Despite it being a good month to catch Saturn bright in the night sky (there's a close encounter coming soon!), it's been a while since we've had a good meteor shower that was worth lying out in the grass late staring up at the heavens. That will change this weekend. The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower runs from around July 12 to August 23 with a peak the night of Monday, July 29, per the American Meteor Society.
Unfortunately for stargazers in the US, the show is best seen from the southern hemisphere and southern latitudes in the northern hemisphere. For most people north of the equator, the radiant, Aquarius, will be difficult to see or non-existent. So, you'll only be able to see some of the meteors that the shower creates. It produces about 20 meteors per hour.
However, the meteors are dim enough to be washed out by strong moonlight, and the moon will be waning gibbous on July 29, inevitably creating visibility issues. The moon won't rise until around 3am local time, though.
How to see the Delta Aquariid meteor shower
Part of the reason for the low meteor rate with the Delta Aquariids is, as mentioned above, the radiant is low in the southern sky. Because of that, you'll want to watch from somewhere with no obstructions along the southern horizon. If there are buildings, trees, or hills in the way, they'll probably obscure some meteors from sight.
Though Aquarius will be low in the sky, you should locate it to help you see the most meteors possible. Look toward the constellation, but not directly at it. The meteors will be moving away from the radiant.
As with any meteor shower, you want to get out of the city and toward a viewing space with dark skies. The darker, the better. National Parks and State Parks are a good place to start looking for a place to stargaze in your area.
If you're not enticed by a meteor shower with obstacles, you're only a few weeks from the best meteor shower of the year. The Perseids will peak the night of August 12. It's this year's Super Bowl of meteor showers. (Here's a list of Perseid meteor shower viewing parties in every US state.)
Though, like many meteor showers in 2019, the Perseids will be competing with a bright moon. However, the Perseids actually begin in July, even if you won't see nearly as many meteors as you will around its peak. So, if you're out hunting for the meteors of the Southern Delta Aquariids, you may be able to spot a few streaks of light that are part of the Perseids. That shower has the constellation Perseus as its radiant. That can be a little tricky to find for a casual stargazer. But just to the north of Perseus, you'll find the more easily recognizable Cassiopeia the Queen, which is roughly in the shape of a tilted W or the number 3.
No matter what you're looking for, tonight should be a great evening to be out looking up at the night sky.