We’re finally expecting some drier, more comfortable weather this week and just in time for a few great astronomical events!
Delta Aquariids Peak: Late July is the nominal peak of the Delta Aquariid meteor shower and this year it comes with some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that the peak is coming at the same time as July’s full moon; the extra moonlight makes it more difficult to pick out the meteors in the sky. The good news is that skies will be mostly clear from Tuesday night through Thursday night with only a slight uptick in cloudiness over the weekend. Between the moon and the fair skies, you can still catch a few meteors this week if you look hard enough!
The moon rises early in the evening this week, so your best chance at escaping its glow is to instead try to wake up and catch a few meteors in the hours before dawn – closer to 4am-5am. If you’re more of a night owl than an early bird, then view the meteors the way you normally would: choose a place away from city lights, go closer to midnight and give yourself an hour or more to look straight up for meteors. At its peak the Delta Aquariids produce 10-20 meteors per hour. With the moon shining bright though, don’t be discouraged if its tough to see any.
For dedicated skywatchers who have their hearts set on a meteor shower it might be worth waiting for the moon to back off some. The Delta Aquariids will still be going through the first two weeks of August and there isn’t a major drop in meteor numbers after the peak. The longer you wait, the smaller the moon will be; the next new moon lands on August 11th.
No meteors, no problem!
If you don’t manage to pick out any meteors, there are still some pretty cool happenings centered around this week! The moon will be full on Friday evening, marking July’s ‘Buck Moon’ plus the Mars oppositions occurs the same night. Opposition occurs when the sun, Earth, and Mars line up with Earth in the middle. When opposition occurs Mars is closer to Earth than it is on an average night and will appear more than 5 times brighter than normal.
You can view Mars as a bright red dot next to the moon any night this week. The opposition officially occurs with the full moon on July 27th, but Mars will appear bigger and brighter than normal through the beginning of August, so you have plenty of time for viewing it!