Friday night into Saturday morning will be one of the special dates spread throughout the year when skywatchers can catch a meteor shower as a multitude of flares that may erupt into the darkness.
Meteor showers occur when our planet encounters the debris field left behind by icy comets or rocky asteroids orbiting the sun. These tiny particles burn up in the atmosphere, leading to blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that a particular meteor shower occurs at about the same time each year.
The latest storm is the Southern Delta Aquariids, sometimes also spelled Southern Delta Aquarids. They have been active since July 18 and will go through August 21, but they will peak from July 29 to 30, or from Friday evening to early Saturday morning.
This squall is one of the best for viewers in the southern tropics, but will also be visible low in the sky to those in the northern hemisphere.
The moon will be a skinny crescent just past new at peak. Streaks from the shower should be noticeable a week before or after the peak evening. The Southern Delta Aquariids are predicted to produce between 15 and 20 meteors per hour under dark skies, and are best seen around 3 a.m.
And more meteor showers are coming. Visit The Times’ list of major showers expected in 2022, or sync our curated collection of major space and astronomy events to your personal digital calendar.
How to see a shower
It is best to go to the countryside and stay as far away from artificial light sources as possible. People in rural areas may have the luxury of just getting outside. But city dwellers also have options.
Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a special area of dark sky. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they are,” said Robert Lunsford, the secretary general of the International Meteor Organization.
Meteor showers are usually best seen when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. To see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after arriving at your viewing location. This allows your eyes to adapt to the dark. Then sit back and enjoy much of the night sky. Clear nights, higher elevations, and times when the moon is slim or absent are best. Mr Lunsford suggested a good rule of thumb: “The more stars you can see, the more meteors you can see.”
Binoculars or telescopes are not necessary for meteor showers and even limit your view.