Cast your eyes across the night sky this weekend and you might see around 20 “shooting stars” from three meteor streams caused by our planet passing through the remnants of three separate comets.
The key time for this is Saturday evening, just before midnight until two hours before sunrise.
However, there are a few other objects buzzing around Earth this weekend, including two huge asteroids and, yes, falling rocket debris.
Here’s what you need to know:
Three meteor showers will combine
Expect around 20 “shooting stars” per hour from Saturday evening through Sunday morning as peaks of Delta-Aquarid and (less prolific) alpha Capricornid meteor showers combine under dark, moonless skies.
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is caused by dust and debris left in the inner solar system by Comet 96P/Machholz while the Alpha Capricornids are from Comet 169P/NEAT.
There will also be “shooting stars” around the Perseid meteor shower, usually the most popular exhibit of the year. They are caused by comet Swift-Tuttle. However, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower this year is on the night of the full moon, which will make it very difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.
So for this year, it’s best to avoid the peak night of the Perseid meteor shower and instead look this weekend for the peak of the Delta Aquarids and some additional “shooting stars” from the growing Perseids and alphas Capricornids.
Two asteroids will pass near Earth
Early Saturday, a 400-foot-wide asteroid called 2016 CZ31 will pass Earth at a distance of about 3 million miles/2 million kilometers at 01:00 UTC (7:00 p.m. EST Friday).
Later Saturday around 7:37 p.m. ET, asteroid CU83 2013, which measures about 600 feet in diameter, will pass through the Earth-Moon system, although at its closest it will only reach 4,320,000 miles / 6,960 000 kilometers. It is far beyond the Moon.
A Chinese rocket will fall to Earth
Have you heard of China’s new Tiangong space station? Its second module “Wentian” was launched from the space launch site in Wenchang, China on July 24, 2022 on a Chinese Long March 5B rocket. However, this rocket core will return to Earth on Saturday and it is unclear where exactly it will land.
The aerospace company Center for Orbital Debris and Reentry Studies predict that it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere at 6:16 p.m. UTC plus or minus five hours.
Its rocket stage weighs 25 tons (23 metric tons), which was launched on July 24 to deliver the Wentian laboratory cabin module to China’s incomplete Tiangong space station, is expected to return Earth atmosphere on July 30 at 7:24 p.m. ET, plus or minus 4 p.m., according to researchers at The Aerospace Corporation Center for Orbital Debris and Reentry Studies. However, it is too early to say where it will land. Updates here:
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.