How to Watch the Delta Aquariids and Alpha Capricornids Meteor Showers Peak

Two separate meteor showers are set to peak on Wednesday night, providing a skywatching opportunity for some.

The Southern Delta Aquariids, which are occurring between July 12 and August 23 this year, will peak alongside the Alpha Capricornids, which are occurring between July 3 and August 15, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

Despite the two meteor showers occurring at the same time, skywatchers may find that the light of the moon, which is set to be bright on Wednesday night, will wash out a number of the shooting stars, EarthSky states.

Still, both meteor showers will last for weeks after their peak and AMS notes that the Southern Delta Aquariids produce good meteor rates for a week centered on the night of maximum activity.

In addition, the Alpha Capricornids in particular are associated with the number of fireballs—or particularly bright meteors—during its period of activity.

Watching a meteor shower does not require any extra equipment, but some planning and preparation may improve the experience.

AMS advises skywatchers to have some knowledge of star charts so they can locate where in the sky they can expect the shower to come from. Meteor showers usually appear to come from one particular part of the sky, known as the shower's radiant.

In addition, meteor showers are usually dimmer in city and suburban conditions, so people may want to plan their observing session away from city lights.

Once at an observation site, people should give their eyes some time to adjust to the dark and avoid use of lights as much as they can.

Delta Aquariids are so called because their radiant is in the constellation Aquarius. The radiant of the Alpha Capricornids is near to the constellation Capricornus, from which the shower gets its name.

The AMS states that patience is required in order to observe a meteor shower. Most showers will produce a steady, reliable show of meteors instead of a big display.

The Southern Delta Aquariids, for example, can show around 16 meteors per hour while the alpha Capricornids can expect to show up to five.

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet: a chunk of ice, rock and frozen gas that orbits the sun.

As the sun heats the comet up, the comet releases a trail of debris behind it, and when the Earth passes through this debris some of the pieces speed through the planet's atmosphere and burn up resulting in a brief, bright streak across the sky.

So although meteor showers appear to come from the direction of certain constellations, they are not actually coming from there.

persied meteor shower
A Perseid meteor flashes across the night sky above Corfe Castle on August 12, 2016 in Corfe Castle, U.K. kywatchers may want to get away from light pollution to see a meteor shower. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images