Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Delta Aquarid Shower 2016: How to Watch, Peak Dates & More

Delta Aquarid Shower 2016: How to Watch, Peak Dates & More

Flickr/Wilson Lam {WLQ}

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The main stargazing even for this year will be the  Perseid meteor shower in August but we can also enjoy the equally impressive Delta Aquarid meteor shower, which officially started on July 12. The meteor shower, which presents 15 to 20 meteors per hour, peaks on July 28 and 29.

The event can be seen in night skies across the globe. However, the people who live in the southern hemisphere might get the best views. For those who live in the northern hemisphere, scientists suggest looking towards the southern horizon for a great view.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) considers Delta Aquarids a minor meteor shower. By comparison, Perseid can offer up to 50 meteors per hour.

Delta Aquarid
Comet 96P/Machholz, one of the possible culprits for Delta Aquarids. Credit: Wikimedia/Chesnok

The meteor shower event is even more exciting on early August as the Delta Aquarids coincide with a new moon. The darker skies will make the trails clearer.

Scientists explain that the Delta Aquarid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet, just like most meteor showers that occur every year. When a comet passes close to the sun, the heat vaporizes its rock and dust, leaving a luminous tail. As of now, no one knows which comet produces this month’s meteor shower.

The Smithsonian reports that Marsden and Kracht are two comets scientists believe to produce the Delta Aquarid meteor shower. Apparently, the two formed when a larger comet broke in half after flying too close to the sun.

Recently, some scientists suggested that comet 96P/Machholz could have also caused the annual meteor shower.  Machholz was discovered by an amateur astronomer back in 1986. It passes the sun via its short orbit once every five years. When it comes in between Mercury and the sun, the heat vaporizes the comet to leave the dust trail, creating Delta Aquarids.