The Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend—Here's How to See It

Alpha Capricornids/iStock via Getty Images
Alpha Capricornids/iStock via Getty Images

We're officially in the middle of meteor shower season. The Perseids and Alpha Capricornids are currently active, and early this week, a fireball meteor was visible streaking across the night sky over New England. On Sunday, July 28, the light show will continue: That night, the Delta Aquariids will reach their peak, and an "old moon" will make it one of the best meteor showers of the summer, Travel + Leisure reports.

The Delta Aquariids become visible starting July 12 and last through August 23. They're the result of a trail of space dust that a comet called 96P/Machholz leaves behind as it circles the Sun. Every year, the Earth passes through this debris field, producing shooting stars as numerous as 20 per hour moving up to 25 miles per second at the shower's peak.

The Delta Aquariids are often overshadowed by the Perseids, a much more reliable meteor shower that's active around the same time of year. But this summer, the Delta Aquariids are the spectacle to catch. The peak of the Perseids coincides with a full moon, which means many meteors that would otherwise be visible will be washed out. The peak of the Delta Aquariids, on the other hand, falls on a late rising moon, or old moon. Sunday is just a few days away from the new moon on August 1, so skies will be especially dim that night, making for great viewing conditions for the meteor shower.

To increase your chances of spotting shooting stars, wait until around midnight, when skies are darkest, on late Sunday night/early Monday morning to look up. Meteors will come from the south, around the direction of the constellation Aquarius. As is the case with any celestial event, areas with low light pollution will offer the best views.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

What Did the Hubble Telescope See on Your Birthday? This NASA Website Will Show You

A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.
A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990, and it has spent the last three decades enriching our understanding of the cosmos more than we ever could’ve imagined. This year, NASA is celebrating the telescope's 30th birthday with another launch: a website that shows you a photo of what the Hubble saw on your birthday.

Because the telescope is exploring space every hour of every day, the images it has captured over the years are both fascinating and varied. You could see a globular star cluster, a dust storm on Mars, or something else entirely. You only need to enter the date and month of your birthday on the site, so the image you get won’t necessarily be from the year you were born—and, if you were born before 1990, it definitely won’t be—but it’s pretty fun to juxtapose how you were spending that particular birthday with how the Hubble was spending it. While your parents were snapping a shot of you blowing out the candles at your eighth birthday party, for example, the Hubble might’ve been snapping a shot of the beautiful auroras around Jupiter’s north pole.

The telescope was first conceived all the way back in 1946 by Yale University astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, Jr., who published a paper about the possible advantages of having what he called a “large space telescope” in orbit to help astronomers study the galaxies. The project finally got off the ground in the 1970s, and the telescope was designed so that astronauts could periodically upgrade it while still in orbit. Since it first broke through the atmosphere in 1990, the Hubble—named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, who proved the existence of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way—has taught us that the universe is 14 billion years old, that its expansion is speeding up, and so much more.

Unlock your birthday image on the Hubble website here, and check out more stellar photos taken by the Hubble here.

Mark Your Calendars: The Lyrid Meteor Shower Is Coming

Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images
Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images

If you've grown tired of Zoom meetings, Netflix parties, and livestreams, take a break from staring at your screens to look up at the sky. Starting in April, the Lyrid meteor shower will make its annual appearance. Here's what you need to know to see the spectacle from wherever you're quarantined.

What are the Lyrids?

With written evidence of the event dating back to China around 690 BCE, the Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers on record. The light show occurs when our planet passes through the tail of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, causing its rocky debris to burn up in the atmosphere.

From Earth, the Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which rises above the northeastern horizon after dusk, and the meteor shower borrows its name from the constellation. The Lyrids aren't as active as some other annual showers, usually maxing out at just 20 shooting stars per hour on peak nights. But patient spectators are sometimes rewarded: The event has been known to have outbursts of up to 100 meteors in a single hour. Such surges are rare and random, so all sky-gazers can do is look up at peak times and hope to get lucky.

How to See the Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids start every year around April 16, but your best chance at seeing them comes later in the month. Late April 21 through early April 22, the meteor shower is predicted to reach peak activity. Following that period, the shooting stars from the shower will become less frequent before finally fizzling out around April 25.

The Lyrids may be easier to spot in 2020 than in recent years. Since businesses closed and people started sheltering in their homes, there has been a slight dip in light and air pollution. Those darker, clearer skies will create better conditions for spotting shooting stars in some parts of the country. As always, waiting until skies are darkest—in the hours around midnight, typically—is the best way to boost your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible.

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