The annual Delta Aquariids meteor shower is upon us, and it happens to coincide with a faint Moonlight that will make for a better viewing experience of this light show in the skies.
The meteor shower is active from about July 12 to August 23 every year, and peaks this week. Therefore, this week is the perfect time to marvel at the Delta Aquariids shower.
Delta Aquariids will peak on the night of Tuesday, July 28 until the early hours of Wednesday, July 29.
Meteor showers are the broken off bits that fall off of comets and asteroids. As these rocky bodies of frozen gas, dust, and material that likely dates back to the formation of the Solar System travel closer to the Sun, the star's powerful gravitational pull can weaken them, breaking them apart as they draw near.
The dust that trails off from comets forms into a trail around their orbits. Our planet Earth passes through these trails each year during its orbit around the Sun, and some of the dust interacts with Earth's atmosphere and disintegrates to form the fiery streaks that we observe in the sky, known as meteor showers.
Delta Aquariids appears as multiple shooting stars, about 20 an hour moving at a pace of 25 miles per second, according to NASA. Astronomers believe that the Delta Aquariid meteor shower spawns from a short-period comet known as 96P/Machholz, which orbits the Sun every five years.
The meteor shower originates from the constellation of Aquarius, which is near the star Skat, the third brightest star in the constellation.
Delta Aquariids is best viewed in the Southern Hemisphere and southern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. If you look somewhere between the horizon and the zenith, and 45 degrees away from the constellation of Aquarius, you will be able to marvel at the Delta Aquariids showers.
If you live in a crowded city like New York, it is best to get as high up as possible in order to minimize light pollution therefore going on a balcony or rooftop is highly recommended.
You also want to block out any light coming from screens of electronic devices, or flashlights and allow your eyes to get accustomed to the darkness for around 30 minutes before you look up.
It is best to marvel at the sky is right after midnight until an hour or two before dawn in order to ensure that the skies are as dark as possible.
This week also happens to have a first-quarter Moon, where the Moon is 90 degrees away from the Sun and therefore only half of its face appears illuminated in the night skies, which makes for perfect viewing conditions for this slightly faint meteor shower.