Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks at the end of July

During July and August, the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower will produce up to 15 meteors per hour.
By | Published: July 22, 2013 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower finder chart
Viewers could see up to 10 meteors per hour coming from Aquarius on July 30, when a crescent Moon slightly hinders the view. // Astronomy: Roen Kelly
The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower will produce streaks of light visible to those in the Southern Hemisphere and tropical northern latitudes. This shower is active July 12–August 23 and peaks July 30 when up to 15 meteors per hour are visible.

Unfortunately, during the Delta Aquarids’ peak, the Moon — a barely waning crescent — rises around midnight and will wash out some of the dimmer “shooting stars.”

“If you can stay up late or get up early, try watching just before dawn for the best views,” said Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Richard Talcott. “In early August, just after the peak, you may catch an early streak or two from the Perseid meteor shower, and the Moon won’t be as bright.”

Meteors appear because motes of fast-moving dust collide with Earth’s atmosphere. The friction between these tiny particles and the atmosphere’s molecules cause the dust to vaporize and leave a trail of light in the sky. Meteor showers occur when Earth’s orbit brings it through a comet’s stream of debris — discarded dust and ice left that trace the comet’s orbit.

How to observe meteor showers video
Enjoying a meteor shower requires only comfort and patience. Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich gives tips on spending a night under “shooting stars” in this video. Click on the image to go to the video.
The Southern Delta Aquarid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius the Water-Bearer, which is at its highest point in the sky right before sunrise. To see the most meteors, though, don’t look directly at the radiant.

As Talcott said, “All other things being equal, the farther away from the radiant a meteor streaks, the longer its trail will be.”

Enjoy the endless summer nights of meteor-watching with some lemonade and a lawn chair.

Fast facts:

  • Delta Aquarid meteors are not slow by anyone’s definition, crashing into the atmosphere at 91,700 mph (147,600 kilometers/hour), but their speed is moderate compared to the 158,800 mph (255,600 km/h) of November’s Leonids.
  • The Southern Delta Aquarid shower occurs because Earth is passing through Comet 96P/Machholz’s debris.
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