The annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower is set to peak at the end of July in a spectacular display of shooting stars across the night sky. Due to peak at around 28 and 29 July, the Delta Aquarids are active until mid-August, which means they would coincide with the brighter Perseid meteor shower.
Where does the meteor shower originate?
The shower is believed to originate from the comet 96P/Machholz, although this is disputed by some astronomers. This short-period comet, discovered in 1986 by Donald Machholz, orbits the sun about once every five years.
The meteor shower gets its name because their radiant appears to lie in the constellation Aquarius, near one of the constellation's brightest stars, Delta Aquarii.
During the peak of the shower at the end of July, the hourly rate of meteors can reach 15-20 meteors in a dark sky without light pollution.
What is a meteor?
Meteors come from leftover comet particles from broken asteroids.
When comets pass around the sun, the dust they emit turns into a trail around their orbits. The Earth passes through these debris trails and the particles collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate and burn up, creating flashes of light across the sky.
As Nasa explains: "A meteor is a space rock, or meteoroid, that enters Earth's atmosphere. As the space rock falls toward Earth, the resistance, or drag, of the air on the rock makes it extremely hot. What we see is a 'shooting star'. That bright streak is not actually the rock, but rather the glowing hot air as the hot rock zips through the atmosphere. When Earth encounters many meteoroids at once, we call it a meteor shower."
The Perseid meteor shower, associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, is also active from mid-July but does not peak until 12 to 13 August.
What is the best way to spot the meteor shower?
For the best chance of seeing the meteor shower, find an area with little light pollution where you can set up camp with a sleeping bag, blanket or chair – as you might be in for the long haul. Nasa advises to lie flat on your back so you have a panoramic view of the night sky. It will take around half an hour for your eyes to adapt to the dark, which will help you see the shower.
For astronomy fans wanting to see the meteor shower in the comfort of their own home, the Slooh Observatory will be hosting a live stream.