Are you ready for “Shooting Star Saturday?”
This Saturday night – around midnight, and most likely into the early hours of Sunday – sees the peak of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. This comes at a time when reports of “fireballs” are on the rise.
Surely it’s not as big as the famous Perseid meteor shower – the summer parade of “shooting stars” that peaks in August?
There is bad news about this.
The Perseid meteor shower is the best of the year for Northern Hemisphere astronomers, as it combines warm weather with more than 100 possible “shooting stars” per hour.
The problem is that this year’s peak night, August 12 and 13, coincides with the full moon.
A full moon is bright enough to whiten the night sky with stars – and certainly “shooting stars” – and to make matters worse, it stays up all night.
So for this year, it is better to avoid the nighttime peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Don’t go camping, don’t plan “shooting star” parties, don’t even bother stargazing. Just watch the moon.
Instead, be outdoors this Saturday night and in a dark place, as you’re likely to see not only a few early Perseids, but also the peak of the Delta Aquarids. You may also see something from the Alpha Capricornids meteor shower which will also peak.
Here’s everything you need to know about the three meteor showers arriving in dark skies near you this weekend:
What, when and where is the Delta Aquarids meteor shower?
Dates: July 18 to August 21, 2022
Peak night: July 30/31, 2022
Radiant point: Constellation Aquarius
About 10-20 “shooting stars” per hour are expected from the peak of the Delta-Aquarid meteor shower, which will occur in dark, moonless skies (the crescent Moon will be barely 3% illuminated and set just after the Sun).
Dark skies will help you see them more easily, although the further south you are the more likely you are to see meteors.
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is caused by dust and debris left in the inner solar system by Comet 96P/Machholz.
What, when and where is the alpha Capricornids meteor shower?
Dates: July 7 to August 15, 2022
Peak night: July 30/31, 2022
Radiant point: constellation of Capricorn
The Alpha Capricornids are a minor meteor shower that delivers a few slow-moving “shooting stars” per hour.
Like the Delta Aquarids, they will appear to come from the southern skies when viewed from the northern hemisphere. They are caused by debris from comet 169P/NEAT.
What, when and where is the Perseid meteor shower?
Dates: July 7 to August 24, 2022
Peak night: August 12/13, 2022
Radiant point: constellation of Perseus
The Perseid meteor shower is the most popular “shooting star” exhibit of the year. They are caused by comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed through the solar system in 1992 in its 133-year-long orbit around the Sun.
Known for being both colorful and for having bright, lingering trails, Perseids can reach up to 100 per hour, although you can usually see around 50 per hour.
Since you’ll be watching them a good 10 nights before their peak, you won’t see many, but maybe five or 10. They’ll appear to be shooting from the northwest sky.
When to see the three meteor showers combine
OK, so this won’t be the prettiest display of “shooting stars” the world has ever seen, but it’s the best we’ve got in 2022. In practice, we’re talking maybe 10 per hour of Deltas Aqaurids and another 10 or more Perseids – which together make it potentially pretty good!
Thursday July 28 sees a New Moon. This makes the night sky on July 29, 30 and 31 moonless after midnight, so if it is clear on July 30/31 you may see the peak of the Delta Aquarids and some additional Perseid “shooting stars” and the Alpha Capricornids .
Good luck, and here’s a tip: put away your smartphone!
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.