The night sky is lighting up this summer.
The season’s first big meteor shower, the Delta Aquarids, peaks this week with the brightest streaks of light crossing our skies Thursday and Friday.
This meteor shower is best seen north of the equator, and should be visible to those in North America. Peak times to watch are late in the evening and during predawn hours, weather and cloud coverage permitting.
If you’re planning on watching the event, keep in mind these “shooting stars” may be faint to the naked eye and lack the fireball effect that we normally associated with major meteor showers.
The Delta Aquarids typically shoots off 15 to 20 meteors per hour, which is a bit fewer than other meteor showers. Although the strength of these meteors might vary in brightness, viewers have a good chance of spotting a shooting star or two during the Delta Aquarids’ peak and even the week before and after.
There’s been a bit of a drought when it comes to meteor showers this summer, with the last one happening in May. The Delta Aquarids will be a prelude to some of this season’s brightest celestial activity. To make this annual meteor shower more fun for stargazers, here are some tips for observing the light show this week.
Keep your eyes towards Aquarius
Stargazers should look towards the Aquarius constellation during the evenings to spot meteors. The Delta Aquarids get their name from the Delta Aquarii, a star in the Aquarius constellation. During the celestial event, meteors will fan out in all directions, but they will streak from the radiant, the center of the constellation, according to Sky and Telescope.
Get away from the city
Meteor showers can be a rare sight for city dwellers, especially with the dramatic increase of light population in urban areas. In order to see shooting stars nowadays, you need to make an effort to escape artificial city lights. National parks, wilderness and rural areas are some of the best places to find dark skies.
For best results, use a camera
In a world where everyone has a mobile device in their pocket, it might be surprising to hear that iPhones are not ideal for astrophotography. The key to a good meteor shower photo is a long exposure, which you can get from a DSLR and other cameras. However, if you only have a smartphone you can try holding it up to a telescope eyepiece to take a crisper image.
Frame up your shots
To take your astrophotography to the next level, frame your photographs so that they show some of the surrounding landscape. For instance, capturing a bit of the ground, tree tops or mountains in your meteor shower photos will help illustrate space and scale. It will also make your photos more visually interesting.