Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower: Peak Time to Watch Shooting Stars Light Up the Sky

by Lauren Boisvert

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower begins in mid-July, but it will be at its peak tonight, July 29, according to NASA. The meteor shower usually starts in the middle of July and goes until late August, but the meteors are hard to spot if the moon is out. Tonight, the moon is in its waxing crescent phase, which means it’s about one percent illuminated. The perfect time to get out and see the shooting stars.

This meteor shower is best viewed in the Southern Hemisphere or southernmost areas of the Northern Hemisphere. NASA recommends finding a high place outdoors away from city lights. Lay on your back in the grass, and take in as much of the sky as possible. Viewers should look halfway from the horizon and the zenith–which is the imaginary spot in the sky directly above you, the observer–and 45 degrees from the constellation Aquarius. This will give you the best view of the celestial show. The shower is reported to last until dawn. So, pack some snacks and a blanket and settle in if you want to watch all night.

If you miss the Delta Aquariids tonight, don’t fret. There’s another chance to see them during the Perseids in August. And, occasionally, the opportunity to see random fireballs streak across the sky. NASA writes about how to spot Delta Aquariids versus Perseids meteors. The Delta Aquariids will come from the area that represents the constellation Aquarius, in the southern part of the sky. In contrast, the Perseids come from the northern part of the sky.

As for me, I’m in a pretty southern part of the Northern Hemisphere. I’m definitely going to be out on my balcony looking up at the sky tonight. Even if I have to share the porch with the bats that live in my support beams, I’m going to try and catch a glimpse of the Delta Aquariids if I can.

Where Do the Delta Aquariids Come From Exactly?

According to NASA, this meteor shower is made up of space debris from comet 96P, or Machholz. This comet takes five years to orbit around the Sun. It’s the pieces of rock and debris from this comet that interact with our atmosphere to create dazzling light shows in the summers.

It’s important not to confuse the Delta Aquariids with the Eta Aquariids. That meteor shower peaks in early May, and come from debris that breaks off the 1P or Halley comet. In comparison to the Machholz comet, Halley takes 76 years to orbit the Sun. We won’t see Halley itself until 2061. But, the debris from the comet occasionally forms the Eta Aquariids in May and the Orionids in October.

Are you going to be out tonight looking for the Delta Aquariids? Or will you wait for the Perseids in mid-August, considered some of the best meteors around? So many meteors to choose from, so why not just see them all?