Delta Aquarid and Perseid



If you like falling stars, the next few weeks could be a real treat.  Warm summer nights are great for viewing falling stars, and one meteor shower has just started, and it will overlap with an even better meteor shower.

The Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower goes from July 12 to August 23.  The peak viewing period will occur on July 28 and 29 with perhaps 20 meteors per hour.  Although this is not a well-known meteor shower, it is still worth our attention.  The moon is waning toward a new moon on the 26th so the viewing should be good.

Meteor showers are named according to their radiant, or the point from which they appear to originate.  In this case, they appear to originate in the constellation Aquarius.  The best viewing will be after midnight.  Look to the southeast.  The constellation will, of course, move across the sky westward as the evening progresses.

The Delta Aquarids overlap with the more widely known Perseid Meteor Shower.  The Perseids should be visible from July 17 until August 24, with the peak viewing period occurring on the night of August 12.  There is a full moon on August 10th which certainly won’t help.  But the Perseids are known to produce up to 60 meteors per hour, so the shows could still be quite good.  Look for the constellation Perseus, or to the northeast, after midnight.

Meteors are not falling stars.  They are the produced by bits of comets passing through the earth’s atmosphere. Comets are mixtures of ice, rock, and dust a few miles in diameter.  When they pass near the sun, the heat causes the comet to shed ice and particles.   These mostly sand-sized pieces of ice and rock create a debris field in outer space.  When the earth passes through these debris fields, the pieces collide with the atmosphere and become glowing hot.  Viewed from earth, they are “falling stars.”

Hopefully there will be some clear skies over the next few weeks.  It might be worth finding a dark place out of town to just relax and look up at the nighttime sky, particularly around next weekend.  And of course you could also take this time to learn a new constellation or two.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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