By the time the Independence Day fireworks start to quiet down, a different type of light show will dazzle spectators in late July. The Delta Aquariid meteor shower begins in the middle of the month and peaks on July 28, 2021. Here's what you need to know to catch the event.
What are the Delta Aquariids?
Every summer, our planet passes through the tail of the Comet 96/P Machholz. As rocks from the comet's debris field burn up in Earth's atmosphere, they appear to streak as shooting stars across the night sky. At their peak, the Delta Aquariids produce as many as 20 shooting stars per hour. The meteors fly at mid-range speeds of up to 25 miles per second.
The meteor shower gets its name from the star Delta Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius. As the comet debris burns up, the meteors appear to spray from the water bearer, with Delta Aquarii acting as the radiant point. They originate from the southern part of the night sky.
How to see the Delta Aquariid meteor shower
The Delta Aquariids start around July 12 and last until about August 23. Their peak is technically the night of July 28, but the meteors are still very active on the surrounding dates. If you miss them that Wednesday, you can try looking up any night in late July.
The meteors are most visible from the northern tropics and the Southern Hemisphere. A waning gibbous moon coincides with the shower's peak in 2021, which means it will be more difficult than usual to view from any part of the world this year. To boost your chances of spotting a shooting star, find an open area with dark, unobstructed skies. Here are some tips for stargazing from astronomers.