Look up TONIGHT! Best view of Delta Aquariids meteor shower comes with New Moon

The Delta Aquariids — so named because they appear to come from the constellation of Aquarius, near the bright star of Delta Aquarii — is a moderate, annual meteor shower. Visible from July 12–August 23, the shower has its peak on July 30, when lucky viewers should be able to see a steady stream of 25 shooting stars per hour. They are best viewed in the southern hemisphere, but viewers in Britain — and other mid-latitude locations — should still get a good show, weather permitting.

Meteors are pieces of comets, asteroids or other space rocks that let off a streak of light as they burn up during their passage through the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Delta Aquariids occur annually every time the Earth’s orbit brings it through the debris trail left behind by a comet. Exactly which comet is responsible, however, is a little unclear.

For a long time, astronomers had assumed that the shower originated from the breakup of the Marsden and Kracht “sungrazing” comets — so named because they get within a mere 850,000 miles of the Sun at their closest approach.

However, more recently the finger has been pointed at the debris trail left in the wake of the disintegrating comet 96P/Machholz.

This comet was named after the astronomer Donald Machholz, who first spotted it from the peak of Loma Prieta, California, back in the May of 1986.

Comet 96P/Machholz is believed to have a nucleus that is around four miles in diameter.

This makes it roughly half the size of the asteroid whose impact on the Earth led to the extinction of the dinosaurs roughly 66 million years ago.

According to NASA, the comet fragments that make up the Delta Aquariids travel at some 25 miles per second as they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

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The astronomers continued: “Lie down on a blanket or sit in a lawn chair to ensure that you have a wide view of the sky.

“Your naked eyes is the best instrument to use to see meteors — don’t use binoculars or a telescope, as these have narrow fields of view.

“Allow your eyes to adapt to the dark and don’t look at any lights, or at your phone, to maintain your dark adaptation.”

“Once you’ve located Delta Aquarii in the sky, look away from the radiant point – if you look in the direction of the radiant you will only see short meteors.

“Meteors will appear longer the further away from the radiant you look, so aim your gaze about 45 degrees away from Delta Aquarii.”