Friday night into Saturday morning will be one of the special dates scattered throughout each year when skywatchers can catch a meteor shower as a multitude of flares potentially burst in the darkness.
Meteor showers occur when our planet runs into the debris field left behind by icy comets or rocky asteroids going around the sun. These small particles burn up in the atmosphere, leading to blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that any given meteor shower happens at roughly the same time each year.
The latest shower is the Southern Delta Aquariids, sometimes also spelled Southern Delta Aquarids. They have been active since July 18 and go to Aug. 21 but they will peak July 29 to 30, or Friday night into early Saturday morning.
This shower is one of the best for viewers in the southern tropics, though it will also be visible low in the sky for those in the Northern Hemisphere.
The moon will be a skinny crescent just past new during the peak. Streaks from the shower should be observable for a week before or after the peak evening. The Southern Delta Aquariids are predicted to produce between 15 to 20 meteors per hour under dark skies, and are best seen around 3 a.m.
And there are more meteor showers to come. Visit The Times’s list of major showers expected in 2022, or sync our curated collection of major space and astronomy events with your personal digital calendar.
How to see a shower
The best practice is to head out to the countryside and get as far away from artificial light sources as possible. People in rural areas may have the luxury of just stepping outside. But city-dwellers have options, too.
Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a dedicated dark sky area. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they have their location,” said Robert Lunsford, the secretary-general of the International Meteor Organization.
Meteor showers are usually best viewed when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. In order to see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after you get to your viewing location. That will allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Then lie back and take in a large swath of the night sky. Clear nights, higher altitudes and times when the moon is slim or absent are best. Mr. Lunsford suggested a good rule of thumb: “The more stars you can see, the more meteors you can see.”
Binoculars or telescopes aren’t necessary for meteor showers, and in fact will limit your view.