Look up tonight! The Delta Aquariids meteor shower reaches its peak tonight

If you are a fan of stargazing, make sure to put this evening on your calendar.

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower will peak tonight, giving the UK an hourly light show of up to 20 ‘shooting stars’.

The recurring shower takes its name in part from how it appears to come from the constellation Aquarius, and can be seen from July 12 to August 23 every year.

The peak of the event usually occurs in the days around July 28. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Delta Aquariids are easier to observe at lower latitudes.

From the UK the light show is usually visible from dusk to dawn without the need for a telescope, with the best views after 2am.

The best viewing locations are those away from bright light sources.

However, the appearance of the Delta Aquariids tonight could be hampered by a crescent moon in the night sky, potentially making them too dim to see.

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower will peak tonight, giving the UK an hourly light show of up to 20 ‘shooting stars’. Pictured: A meteor from the Delta Aquariids rain streaks across the night sky over the Canary Islands in 2014

The recurring squall — which takes its name in part from how it appears to come from the constellation Aquarius (pictured above) — can be seen every year from July 12 to August 23.

The recurring squall — which takes its name in part from how it appears to come from the constellation Aquarius (pictured above) — can be seen every year from July 12 to August 23.

HOW TO SPRAY THE DELTA AQUARIDS

According to NASA, the best way to see them is to lie on your back and look halfway between the horizon and directly above and 45 degrees from Aquarius.

It advised: ‘Find an area away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or garden chair. Lie flat on your back and look up, taking in as much of the air as possible.

“If you look halfway between the horizon and the zenith, and 45 degrees from the constellation Aquarius, you increase your chances of seeing the Delta Aquariids.

“In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes adjust and you start seeing meteors. Be patient – the show lasts until dawn, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”

Meteors are fragments of comets, asteroids or other space rocks that produce a streak of light when they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Experts believe that the material produced by the Delta Aquariids most likely comes from a debris trail left in the wake of the disintegrating comet 96P Machholz, which orbits the sun once every five years.

This body was first spotted in May 1986 by American amateur astronomer Donald Machholz from atop Loma Prieta, California.

Comet 96P Machholz is believed to have a core about four miles (6.4 kilometers) in diameter.

This is about half the size of the asteroid whose impact on Earth caused the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

According to NASA, the comet fragments produced by the Delta Aquariids travel at about 40 miles per second (41 km/s) as they burn through Earth’s atmosphere.

The designation Delta is derived from the third brightest star in Aquarius.

However, the space rocks don’t actually come out of this body. Instead, the name is used to distinguish the shower from the Eta Aquariids, which can be seen from April 18 to May 27 each year.

According to NASA, the best way to see them is to lie on your back and look halfway between the horizon and directly above and 45 degrees from Aquarius.

From the UK, the light show is usually visible from dusk to dawn without the need for a telescope.  The best viewing locations are those away from bright light sources.  Pictured: A meteor from the Delta Aquariids shower sweeping across the night sky

From the UK, the light show is usually visible from dusk to dawn without the need for a telescope. The best viewing locations are those away from bright light sources. Pictured: A meteor from the Delta Aquariids shower sweeping across the night sky

According to astronomers, the best way to see them is to lie on your back and look halfway between the horizon and directly above and 45 degrees from Aquarius.  Pictured: The location of Delta Aquarii, the third brightest star in Aquarius, relative to the constellation Pegasus

According to astronomers, the best way to see them is to lie on your back and look halfway between the horizon and directly above and 45 degrees from Aquarius. Pictured: The location of Delta Aquarii, the third brightest star in Aquarius, relative to the constellation Pegasus

It advised, ‘Find an area far from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or garden chair. Lie flat on your back and look up, taking in as much of the air as possible.

“If you look halfway between the horizon and the zenith, and 45 degrees from the constellation Aquarius, you increase your chances of seeing the Delta Aquariids.

“In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes adjust and you start seeing meteors. Be patient – the show lasts until dawn, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”

For those who miss the Delta Aquariids tonight, 2021 has plenty of other meteor showers in store for amateur astronomers to appreciate.

For example, Friday will see the peak of the Alpha Capricornids, the annual shower that occurs from July 2 to August 14 each year.

August, meanwhile, will bring the height of the Perseids around the 12-13th of the month, while October will see the peaks of the Draconids and Orionids rains on 8-9 and 21, respectively.

Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

One asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.

When one of these meteoroids reaches Earth, it becomes a . called meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns up, forming a meteor shower.

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