Delta Aquarid and Perseid Meteor Showers



Chicken Little was right! The sky is falling. Over the next month or so, there is a good chance that you will see some falling stars. The Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower will be on from July 12 to August 23 with the peak viewing period occurring on July 27 and 28 with perhaps 20 meteors per hour. Although this is not a particularly well-known meteor shower, it is still worth our attention. Moonlight may interfere with some of the more faint meteors but overall 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 well-known Perseid Meteor Shower which will be visible from July 17 until August 24. The peak viewing period will be on August 11 and 12. The Perseids are known to produce up to 60 meteors per hour, so if the sky is clear it could be quite impressive. 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.”

So you might want to make a point of observing the nighttime sky occasionally over the next few weeks. If the show is on, it might be worth finding a dark place and putting down a lawn chair and just do some sky watching for a while. It might even be a good time to bring a star chart and learn a new constellation or two. Plus seeing all the satellites and airplanes up there is also an interesting side show. Considering the weather, seasons, and phases of the moon, this is probably the most easy and comfortable viewing of the year, so we really should take advantage of it.

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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