Alvis Upitis/Getty Images
Have any plans tonight? The Delta Aquariids meteor shower is due to peak after the sun goes down on July 29, according to NASA, and conditions are prime for some stargazing. So we think it's time you head out into the wilderness, prop up a chair, and look for shooting stars. Busy tonight? Don't fret. You'll likely be able to see them tomorrow night, too.
Now, the Delta Aquariids meteor shower isn't the most robust astronomical event, but you can consider it an appetizer to the main course of the Perseids, which is, in many stargazers' opinions, the best meteor shower of the year. (It peaks next month, on the night of Aug. 11.) But we think any chance to see shooting stars is a good one.
Here's everything you need to know about the Delta Aquariids meteor shower.
What Is the Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower?
The Delta Aquariids meteor shower occurs when the Earth moves through the trail of dusty debris left behind by the comet 96P/Machholz. When those particles hit the atmosphere, they burn up and create trails of light — we call these meteors or shooting stars. The Delta Aquariids' name comes from its radiant point, or the part of the night sky from which the shooting stars seem to emanate: specifically, the star Delta within the Aquarius. During the peak, approximately 20 meteors streak across the sky each hour, per NASA.
The Best Time and Place to See the Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower
The meteor shower runs from July 18 to August 21, but the best time to catch the show is on the peak night — this year, that's tonight, July 29. You'll be able to see them as soon as the sky is completely dark, and they should last all night long. Because this is somewhat of a weaker meteor shower, light from the moon often washes out the show. But this year, you're in luck. The new moon happened last night, so the skies are extremely dark, making conditions prime for seeing the Delta Aquariids. And while the show is strongest in the Southern Hemisphere, you can still see the shooting stars from the southern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
How to See the Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower
The key is to get as far away from light pollution as possible to give yourself the best chance of seeing shooting stars. Once you're settled in the dark, give your eyes around 30 minutes to adjust, then simply look up. While the shooting stars appear to come from the Aquarius constellation, you'll be able to see them across the whole sky. According to EarthSky, they'll likely be closer to the horizon in the early evening, moving up to their highest point around 2 a.m. (when the constellation is highest in the sky), then returning back to the horizon by dawn. While most stargazing is best done through telescopes or binoculars, meteor showers are actually best viewed with the naked eye, as you can't predict where they'll be — you want the widest field of view possible.
When Is the Next Meteor Shower?
The Perseids meteor shower is often considered the best meteor shower of the year, and it peaks on the night of August 11 into the morning of August 12.