Every year, people look forward to the Perseid meteor shower. But, this year, the waning gibbous moon is destined to interfere with the peak dates of the shower, on the nights of August 11-12 and 12-13. That fact makes the last week of July and the first several days of August – in the hours before dawn – a good time in 2014 to watch summertime meteors from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. Watch in a dark sky during the hours before dawn.
There are a few reasons why the wee hours before dawn will be so good for meteors in late July and early August. First, the Perseid shower is rising to its peak now. You won’t see as many meteors as on a moonless night during the actual peak nights, but – with the moon gone from the sky in the morning hours right now – we have a ‘window’ for meteor-watching.
Second, there’s another meteor shower going on around now, too. The Delta Aquarid shower – whose radiant point is shown on today’s sky chart – doesn’t have as definite a peak as the Perseids. But this shower is now producing a steady supply of meteors, which you can see in dark skies.
The third reason we in the northern hemisphere like our late July and August meteors is simply the weather. Nights are warm now, and it’s a great time to go to a dark location for a night-long look at the heavens.
By the way, you don’t need to find a meteor shower’s radiant point to watch the shower. The radiant of a meteor shower refers to the point in the sky from which meteors appear to radiate. All you really need to watch meteors is a dark, open sky because meteors will be streaking all across the heavens. For some people, though, it’s great sport to seek out the radiant of a meteor shower. If you trace the paths of the Delta Aquarid meteors backward, you’d find the star Delta Aquarii – also called Skat – nearly coinciding with this radiant.
Our chart shows your southern sky for around 4 in the morning daylight saving time. Drawing a line through the two right-hand stars of the Great Square of Pegasus escorts you to the star Delta Aquarii. This visible yet relatively faint star shines above the brilliant star Fomalhaut. So if you have difficulty locating Delta Aquarii, Fomalhaut serves as a ballpark reference to the radiant.