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Southern Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
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This shower of shooting stars peaks on July 28 and 29
One of the best meteor shows of the year is usually the Southern Delta Aquariid Meteor Show. This regular meteor shower is actually around for more than a month but peaks on July 28 and 29.

Courtesy of Navicore @ Wikimedia Common
Courtesy of Navicore @ Wikimedia Common

This meteor shower is the result of two comets, Marsden and Kratch, breaking up. So every year from mid July to mid August we are hit by these rocks, producing a beautiful and predictable meteor show. The Delta Aquariids have been observed since 1870 with knowledge of their cyclical nature being discovered in 1952.

Tips for meteor watching

The name of the meteor shower comes from the Delta Aquarii star in the constellation Aquarius, which is the the point in the sky where the meteors appear to radiate from. You should be able to see them between midnight and dawn with the peak between 2 and 3 am on July 28 and 29. However they should be visible the entire night. For early risers it can be great to get up before dawn to look for meteors.

Photo of the constellation Aquarius courtesy of Till Credner @ Wikimedia Commons
Photo of the constellation Aquarius courtesy of Till Credner @ Wikimedia Commons

When looking for shooting stars you should head to a location away from light pollution. Give your eyes time to adjust and definitely don't look at your mobile phone or you will have to wait again for your eyes to readjust to the dark. This takes up to 30 minutes.

It is best to lie down on the ground or on a banana lounge so that you can look directly above you. Find the constellation Aquarius (you can download apps for your phone to help you do this) and then focus your gaze on the area halfway between Aquarius and the sky directly above you. Keen scanning the skies while your eyes adjust.

During the peak you should see a meteor every 3 minutes while at other times it will be one every 6 minutes. Though be patient because it may be a while between shooting stars and then you will suddenly see a batch close together.

Photographing a meteor shower

Photographing meteors are not easy, but it is always fun to try. You will need a good DLSR or mirrorless camera. However meteors are not that bright and are in the sky for such a short period of time, a standard lens is usually not fast enough to take a good photo. You need the fastest lens that you have. There is no reason why you can't try it with a standard f/3.5 setting, but you ideally need an f/2 or faster lens. Remember the lower your f setting, the wider the aperture and the more light is let in.

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Stawarz @ Flickr
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Stawarz @ Flickr

Obviously you are going to need a tripod and aim the camera at the area where you have seen the most shooting starts. You want an exposure of 10-25 seconds. Take lots of photos and hope for the best. With a bit of luck you may photograph an extra bright meteor as it passes overhead.

What are meteors?

Meteors start out as rocks floating around in space. In space they are called asteroids or meteoroids. The term asteroid is usually reserve for the rocks large enough that if we saw them coming our way we would be on the phone to Bruce Willis to come up with a plan to blow them up. Meteoroids are much smaller with some just the size of a grain of sand, while larger ones are visible as shooting stars as they burn up in the atmosphere.

Courtesy of Logan Brumm @ Flickr
Courtesy of Logan Brumm @ Flickr

The term meteor is used for asteroids or meteors that hit Earth's atmosphere. The sheer speed of the rocks hitting earths atmosphere cause them to glow white hot while leaving that beautiful trail which we call a shooting star.
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Why? When you wish upon a star
When: Peaks between 2 am and 3 am but should be visible all night
Where: In the night sky originating in the constellation Aquarius
Your Comment
Another great article Roy. I'd love to look out for these but I'm not sure I'm up to braving the Melbourne weather at 3am.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|8059) 1740 days ago
Fantastic article idea, well executed. Thank you.
by Deborah Jayne (score: 2|262) 1741 days ago
Are the meteor showers visible in the Brisbane night sky?
by gail. (score: 0|4) 1731 days ago
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