TORONTO – If the skies are clear over the next few weeks, plan a night under the stars.
Right now we’re in the midst of the Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked between July 27 and 28. At its peak, it’s estimated that in a dark sky site, an average of about 25 meteors per hour are visible. The shower extends until August 23.
However, the big one, a favourite of stargazers, is the Perseids. And that’s occurring right now.
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Though the Perseids don’t reach their peak until the night of Aug. 11 and 12, they started in the middle of July.
They are the most popular meteor shower for two reasons: First, they produce about 50 to 75 meteors per hour under a dark sky. Second, the shower occurs in summer, when most people are able to enjoy the outdoors in relative comfort.
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris left over from a comet. In the case of the Delta Aquariids, astronomers aren’t certain which comet is responsible. But for the Perseids, we have Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle to thank.
The showers get their names from the constellation out of which all meteors seem to originate. In this case, the Delta Aquariids emerge from Aquarius and the Perseids from Perseus. The radiant is the point in the sky from which they originate.
The radiants for both the Delta Aquariids and the Perseids.
Courtesy of Stellarium
And catching meteors isn’t hard to do and requires little effort on your part. All you need is a place to lie down and your own eyes. Look up – and keep looking up, even if you’re chatting with a friend or family member – and you’re sure to catch a few.
You’ll have better luck if you’re in a dark location, however.
So remember to keep an eye on the sky this weekend and throughout the month. And even better, try to get to a dark-sky location.