Amateur astronomers who missed their chance to see Comet NEOWISE in action will want to pay attention to these meteor showers. The Aquariids and Perseids are among the most prolific showers of the year, producing many shooting stars each hour. The first of the two showers will peak in intensity this week but both should remain visible well into August.
Meteor showers light up the night when Earth crosses paths with a debris field left behind a comet or asteroid.
The Southern Delta Aquariids are something of a mystery and have been linked to the sungrazing Marsden and Kracht comets, as well as Comet 96P/Machholz.
The Perseids, on the other hand, are associated with the Comet Swift–Tuttle.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London said: “As the bits of rock and dust in the stream of debris collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up and create fiery streaks across the sky.”
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Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower:
The Southern Aquariids are one of two meteor showers that appear to originate in the constellation Delta Aquarii – hence their name.
The second event is the weaker Northern Delta Aquariid shower, which will peak in August.
The Delta Aquariids are active each year between mid-July and the last week of August.
This year, astronomers expect the shower to peak in the wee morning hours of Wednesday, July 29.
During the peak, the Royal Observatory predicts as many as 20 meteors an hour will be visible.
The Observatory said: “A moderate meteor shower peaking in late July, the Delta Aquariids kick off the summer meteor season in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Although best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, those living at mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere will still be able to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower.”
The Aquariids are best seen from about 2am, with the shower’s highest point at about 3.30am.
The meteors will radiate from Delta Aquariid on the southern horizon.
The Observatory said: “Your naked eye is the best instrument to use to see meteors – don’t use binoculars or a telescope as these have narrow fields of view.
“Allow your eyes to adapt to the dark and don’t look at any lights, or at your phone, to maintain your dark adaptation.”
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Perseid meteor shower:
The Perseids are active each year between mid-July and the last week of August.
This year, the shower is expected to peak on the night of August 11 to August 12.
The Perseids are a much more prominent shower than the Aquariids, with fast-moving meteors and bright trains.
Under perfect weather conditions and no light pollution from the Moon, the shower has been known to produce up to 100 shooting stars an hour.
The Perseids are typically best seen between midnight and the early morning hours.
The Royal Observatory said: “The radiant of the Perseids is actually always above the horizon as seen from the UK, which means that observers in the UK should be able to see some meteors as soon as the Sun sets.
“Therefore, it is worth looking up in the early evening.
“It is always favourable to try and spot meteors when the Moon is below the horizon or when it is in its crescent phase, because otherwise it will act as a natural light pollution and will prevent the fainter meteors from being visible.”
The meteor appears to radiate from its namesake constellation Perseus.