How to See Meteor Showers This Summer – http://wp.me/p6v59E-v
First to appear are the Capricornids on about July 10. This shower peaks on Saturday (July 25) and ends on Aug. 15. Under the best conditions, only a few bright meteors per hour come from this stream, so you’ll hardly know it is in progress unless you plot meteor trails on a star map and trace them back to their common intersection point; most of the meteors you’ll see will be sporadic ones or members of another shower.
The Capricornids’ radiant reaches its highest point — about 30 degrees up in the southern sky — at about 2 a.m. local daylight time on July 25. The waxing gibbous moon will have set about an hour before then, leaving the rest of the night dark for prospective meteor watchers.
Next come the Delta Aquarids, which last from July 12 to Aug. 23. This is July’s most prolific shower, with up to three dozen meteors visible per hour under ideal conditions during the maximum on July 27.
The Delta Aquarid shower has a double radiant, indicating that we are seeing two distinct streams of celestial debris burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. The meteors are mostly faint, with just 5 to 10 percent leaving persistent trails. These shooting stars move at slow or medium speeds because they are coming in sideways across Earth’s orbit.
On peak night this year, the double radiant will be highest — roughly 40 degrees above the southern horizon — at 3:30 a.m. local time. The bright gibbous moon will have set about 80 minutes earlier in the night, so there will be about 100 minutes of dark-sky time before dawn breaks.
The final shower reaching maximum this month is the Piscis Australid, which lasts from July 10 through Aug. 10 and peaks on July 30. This is a lesser stream; only about eight meteors per hour are seen under the best conditions to observers in the Southern Hemisphere, where the radiant — near the bright star Fomalhaut — climbs high in the sky. The nearly full moon will wreck any chances of getting a decent view this year, unfortunately.
Another weak shower is the Alpha Capricornids,which begin about July 3, peak on Aug. 2 and end on Aug. 15. The radiant reaches its highest point (about 30 degrees high in the southern sky) about 1 a.m. local time. Though they produce only about five meteors per hour, the Alpha Capricornids are photogenic, frequently producing bright-yellow fireballs that can be quite spectacular. Sadly, the bright moon, 95 percent illuminated, is not too far away in nearby Aquarius and will seriously impact the peak of this year’s display.
The last minor shower before the Perseids is the Iota Aquarids, a two-radiant shower having detectable meteors from July 15 to Aug. 25. At peak activity on Aug. 6, only about six members per hour are seen under good conditions; the radiants are at their highest point, about 40 degrees in the southern sky, at 2:30 a.m. local time. A waning gibbous moon halfway up in the east-northeast sky will interfere, to an extent, with viewing these meteors.
The dramatic Perseid meteor shower is predicted to reach its peak this year on the morning of Aug. 13. The Perseids’ radiant lies near the border of the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, not far from the famous Double Cluster in Perseus. It rises at dusk and is highest in the sky — nearly overhead — at 5:40 a.m. local time.
When the Perseids’ maximum occurs in a dark sky, as will be the case this year, this rich stream offers a crescendo averaging more than 50 meteors per hour, though double this rate has been seen on occasion. Many flaring meteors with trails are seen. The Perseids normally extend from July 17 through Aug. 24.
The last summer shower is the Kappa Cygnids, which runs from Aug. 19 to Aug. 22 and peaks on Aug. 21.
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