At approximately 12am tonight, the Delta Aquarid meteor shower will begin to light up the Australian skies. The celestial event will be visible with the naked eye thanks to mostly clear skies across the continent. Here's what you need to know.
What is the Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower?
The Southern Delta Aquariids are a meteor shower that originated from the breakup of what are now the Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comets. They are visible from July 12 to mid August each year with peak activity in late July. Tonight is your best chance to view the meteors in their full splendor. They basically look like shooting stars, but with a much higher observation rate of 15–20 per hour.
The Delta Aquariids will be visible across most of the world. However, the Antipodes are particularly well situated to view the shower as the radiant is higher in the sky during the peak season. Hurrah for Australia and New Zealand!
How can I watch the Southern Delta Aquariids?
The Delta Aquariid shower is best viewed after midnight and before dawn. As with any celestial event, it's best to be somewhere dark away from artificial lights. In other words, city slickers might need to head out to the nearest national park for a clearer view.
The meteors will appear to be coming from the constellation Aquarius to the south, hence the name. Most stargazers recommend lying down during the viewing so you can focus on a patch of sky and not crane your neck.
Do I need any special equipment?
No. The showers, which resemble shooting stars, are perfectly visible with the naked eye. If you're planning to take some photos, you'll want to bring a tripod and set ISO to at least 1600 and use continuous shot/burst mode.
Is tonight my only chance to view the shower?
No. If you don't get a chance to catch the Delta Aquarid showers tonight, they will remain visible through to August 23 so be sure to mark a day in your calendar.