Tea Delta Aquariids, which kick off the summer meteor season in the northern hemisphereare peaking this week.
The shower gets its name from the constellation it appears to emanate from – the constellation of Aquarius near the bright star called Delta Aquarii.
Here’s everything you need to know about when and how to get the best view of the meteors in the UK.
When do the Delta Aquariids meteors peak?
The Delta Aquariids always peak around late July, a couple of weeks before the better-known Perseid shower, and the normal limits of their visibility is between 12 July and 23 August.
This year, it is estimated that the meteors will peak in the early hours of Saturday 30 July, between 2.30am and 3.00am, at a rate of around 25 per hour.
However, they are expected to be most visible in the evening of Thursday 28 July, due to the arrival of the new moon.
The absence of moonlight means that the sky will be particularly dark tonight, ensuring a lack of light pollution which will improve your chances of getting a good view of the meteors.
How can I see the meteor shower?
The best time to see the Delta Aquariids, according to the Greenwich Royal Observatoryis between 2-4am, with 3.30am being the peak.
The best place to look to see the meteors is by looking towards the Aquarius constellation, which you can find using a mobile app like SkyView.
You will need the sky to be clear – or at least relatively clear – to have the best chance of seeing the meteors.
Royal Museums Greenwich advises: “Once you’ve located Delta Aquarii on the sky, look away from the radiant point – if you look in the direction of the radiant you will only see short meteors.
“Meteors will appear longer the further away from the radiant you look, so aim your gaze about 45 degrees away from Delta Aquarii.”
Here are some other tips to give you the best chance of catching the shower:
- Make sure that you are in a dark sky area and have an unobstructed view towards the south
- Lie down on a blanket or sit in a lawn chair to ensure that you have a wide view of the sky
- 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
Can I take photos of the Delta Aquariids?
If you want to catch the meteors on camera, Pixsy has produced a beginner’s guide to astrophotography here, which includes the following tips:
- Choose a higher ISO, between 1600 and 6400 – this means the camera is more sensitive to light. The exact ISO you should use will vary between cameras and conditions, so experiment by taking a set of photos and increase the ISO each time to determine which gives you the best results.
- Take a tripod – typical expose times for astrophotography can vary, usually between 5 and 30 seconds, and your camera needs to remain completely still for the duration for a sharper image.
- Use a large aperture – if you can adjust the aperture on your camera, aim for a large setting (between ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/4). This helps to maximize the amount of light going into your camera lens.
What is the Delta Aquariids meteor shower?
There is some debate as to the the origins of the Delta Aquariids. An initial hypothesis was that the meteor shower originated from the break-up of the Marsden and Kracht sungrazing comets.
However, a comet discovered in 1986 called Comet 96P/Machholz has been credited as the most likely source.
As it gets heated by the sun, it is thought that ice in the comet loosens bits of rock which form the debris making up the Delta Aquariids.