The annual Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks tonight (July 29) through dawn on Saturday (July 30) and commonly generates about 15-20 meteors per hour at its peak.
Look to the southeastern sky to find the meteor shower‘s radiant — the patch of sky where the meteors will appear to originate from — located in the constellation Aquarius.
Observers in the southern tropics will get the best view as the shower’s radiant, in southern Aquarius climbs higher in the sky, according to astronomer Chris Vaughan of Astrogeo.ca, who prepares Space.com’s monthly Night Sky calendar in cooperation with Simulation Curriculum. Observers based at the mid-latitudes should still be able to catch a glimpse of the shower.
Unlike the upcoming Perseid meteor shower, the Southern Delta Aquariids will be uninterrupted by moonlight as the young crescent moon will have followed the sun below the horizon, leaving a dark sky perfect for meteor watching.
Skywatchers should be able to see the highest number of meteors when the radiant is high in the sky at about 3 a.m. local time. The exact time of the event varies depending on your specific location, so you’ll want to check out a skywatching app like SkySafari or software like Starry Night to check for times. Our picks for the best stargazing apps may help you with your planning.
Don’t worry if you cannot make it out to catch a glimpse of the shower tonight as the Delta Aquariids are still quite active for a week surrounding the peak, according to Vaughan. The Delta Aquariids last from July 21 to August 23.
The Southern Delta Aquariids is caused by Comet 96P/Machholz, a periodic comet that completes an orbit around the sun every 5.24 years, according to NASA (opens in new tab). It is named after amateur astronomer Don Machholz who discovered the comet in 1986.
When you sit back and enjoy a meteor shower you’re seeing pieces of comet debris heat up as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in a bright burst of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky.
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If you want advice on how to photograph meteor showers, check out our how to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide and if you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.