Tonight – July 28, 2015 – would be a good time to watch for meteors if not for the bright moon.
As always, the annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower is expected to peak in late July – though, this year, in the glare of the the almost-full waxing gibbous moon. We’ve heard from some people already who have seen meteors, mainly in the window between moonset and dawn as the moon has waxed to full. And some will see meteors streaking past in bright moonlight. But, if it’s a truly rich and good meteor shower you’re wanting, you’ll be better off waiting for the Perseid meteor shower, which should be at its best on the moon-free mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.
Even in a favorable year, the Delta Aquarids are a modest shower, offering perhaps 15 to 20 meteors per hour. If you trace the paths of these relatively faint Delta Aquarid meteors backward, they all appear to originate from a certain spot in the sky. This point is called the meteor shower radiant.
It nearly aligns with the star Delta Aquarii (Skat) in the constellation Aquarius. Hence, the meteor shower’s name.
The true beauty of the Delta Aquarid shower is its long duration. It’s going on now, and it’ll still be going on when the Perseids peak, closer to the middle of August. This shower isn’t great for far-northern latitudes. But if you live in the southern U.S. or similar latitudes – or if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere – watch for Delta Aquarid meteors shooting from their radiant in Aquarius, sometimes intersecting the paths of Perseids shooting from their radiant in Perseus. It should be all very exciting this year, when the Perseids peak, if you’re in a good location to watch these wonderful showers on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.
For now, the bright moon is wiping most of the Delta Aquarid meteors and possibly the rather dim star Delta Aquarii to boot.
Our sky chart (top of page) shows the predawn sky as seen from mid-temperate North American latitudes.
So you won’t see many – if any – meteors in late July and early August, 2015. But given clear skies, you’ll likely see the bright star Fomalhaut!
Bottom line: In a dark, moonless night sky in late July and early August, you can see up to 15 to 20 Delta Aquarid meteors per hour. In 2015, the moon is in the way. Get ready, though. The Delta Aquarids will still be flying at the peak of this year’s Perseid meteor shower, which will be mostly moon-free!