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Delta Aquarid Meteors Kick Off Sparkling Summer

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The slightly mysterious Delta Aquarid meteor shower is in full swing this week, peaking on July 28 and 29 for those who don’t mind getting up mega-early or staying up way past their bedtime.

This year’s shower will get little competition from the moon, which is waning during late July and new during early August (when the much livelier Perseids are set to perform). So even though the Delta Aquarid meteor shower “rambles along steadily from about July 12 to August 23 each year,” as Earthsky.org puts it, there’s the chance to see up to 20 shooting stars per hour at night over the next two days. The same caveat as usual applies: The farther you are from urban light, the better.

The Delta Aquarids kick off a trio of summer meteor showers, as Sky and Telescope points out.

“Open the gate. Here they come! It's time for the annual trifecta of late July-early August meteor showers beginning with the Delta Aquarids, which peak the night of July 28-29,” Sky and Telescope says. “The last meteor shower of note occurred in early May when the Eta Aquarids sprinkled a modest few meteors across the dawn sky. Yes, it's been a long time.”

The Delta Aquarids are so named because they appear to emanate from the constellation known as Aquarius.

“The Delta Aquarids typically fire off 15 to 20 meteors per hour before dawn begins, when Aquarius is highest in the sky,” Sky and Telescope says. “Its broad peak is centered on Friday morning. Since most shower members are rather faint, plan to catch the show from a reasonably dark sky.”

The Delta Aquarids are debris from comet 96P/Machholz, which amateur astronomer Don Machholz discovered in 1986, Sky and Telescope tells us.

“The best viewing hours are after midnight and before dawn, centered around 2 a.m. (3 a.m. Daylight Saving Time) for all time zones around the world,” says Earthsky.org. “The Delta Aquarid meteors may tend to appear a bit fainter than the Perseids and meteors seen in other major showers. That makes a dark sky free of moonlight even more imperative for watching the annual Delta Aquarid shower.”