Friday night through Saturday morning is one of the special dates scattered around each year when skygazers can witness a meteor shower when a multitude of flares potentially explode in the dark.
Meteor showers occur when our planet is caught in the debris field left by icy comets or rocky asteroids orbiting the sun. These small particles burn up in the atmosphere, resulting in blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that each meteor shower occurs around the same time each year.
The latest shower is the Southern Delta Aquariids, sometimes spelled Southern Delta Aquarids. They have been active since July 18th and go through August 21st, but they will peak from July 29th to 30th or Friday night to early Saturday morning.
This shower is one of the best for viewers in the southern tropics, although it will also be visible low in the sky for those in the northern hemisphere.
The moon will be a thin crescent just after New during the climax. Streaks from the shower should be observable for a week before or after peak evening. The Southern Delta Aquariids are said to produce between 15 and 20 meteors per hour under dark skies and are best seen around 3am
And there will be more meteor showers. Visit The Times’ list of major rain showers expected in 2022, or sync our curated collection of major space and astronomy events to your personal digital calendar.
How to see a shower
The best course of action is to go to the countryside and get as far away from artificial light sources as possible. People in rural areas can have the luxury of just going outside. But city dwellers also have options.
Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a special section for dark skies. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they are located,” said Robert Lunsford, the secretary-general of the International Meteor Organization.
Meteor showers are usually best seen when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. To see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after arriving at your observing location. This allows your eyes to get used to the darkness. Then sit back and enjoy a wide view of the night sky. Clear nights, higher elevations, and times when the moon is faint 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 are not necessary for meteor showers and will even limit your view.