Astrophotographer Jim Denny took this photo of a Southern Delta Aquarid meteor on July 30, 2014, in Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii.
Credit: Jim Denny
Every summer, skywatchers all over the world look forward to observing the famed Perseid meteor shower, but they often overlook some of the lesser displays that peak during late July and early August.
This year, a waxing gibbous moon will seriously hamper Perseid watching, so why not take this opportunity to watch for the minor meteor showers during this upcoming week?
In addition to shower meteors, there are always sporadic “shooting stars,” apparently unrelated to one another, that occur at an average rate of about seven per hour. (And the duration of a shower is somewhat arbitrary, since the beginning and ending are gradual and indefinite.) [How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2017]
It’s important to stress that the actual number of meteors an observer can see in an hour may differ from the quoted number, depending strongly on sky conditions. Such estimates assume a limiting star magnitude of +6.5 (a supremely dark sky), an experienced observer and the radiant — the point of emanation of the meteors — being directly overhead. The lower the radiant is in the night sky, the fewer the meteors seen. With the radiant about 30 degrees above the horizon, the hourly rate is halved; at 15 degrees, the rate is cut by two-thirds. (Reminder: Your clenched fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of sky.)
The radiants of all the meteor showers we mention here will be reaching their highest points in the southern part of the sky between midnight and 4 a.m. local daylight time, at altitudes ranging between 15 and 30 degrees above the horizon.
Capricornids — These meteors are already past their peak, which was predicted for July 26, but the shower extends from July 10 to Aug….