The Southern delta-Aquariids are usually faint meteors, and observing meteor showers can already be tough at the best of times. Getting the best out of a meteor shower requires late nights, dark skies, a little luck, and lots of patience. The shower’s peak coincides with the moon in its third quarter this year, so the skies are almost at their darkest, we recommend you make the most of it and head out to an Astrotourism Town in country WA.

Take a virtual tour and see how the Southern delta-Aquariid Meteor Shower is generated with this terrific 3D interactive model.

When and where to look:

The Southern Delta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on 31st July, with the best viewing around 2:00am AWST. 

Like the Eta Aquariid meteor shower (the names Eta and Delta are just given to tell the two apart) The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower seems to emerge from the constellation of Aquarius. This means they will appear to emanate from a point high in the north eastern sky.

Do I Need a Telescope to see a Meteor Shower?

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see a meteor shower. It’s a great time to gather with friends, roll out your favourite picnic rug, pack the drinks and snacks, and start counting how many ‘shooting stars’ you all see!

It’s best to view a meteor shower under a dark night sky. Most meteors will be quite faint, so darker surroundings will make it easier to see them. You might consider heading out to a dark sky location at one of WA’s Astrotourism Towns. If you’re an astrophotographer, it is an excellent opportunity to image meteors over some of WA’s iconic landscapes and cross your fingers for a spectacular light show.

What is a meteor shower?

Meteors are caused by Earth passing through the trail of debris left by a comet or other object that has come into our Solar System and orbited around the Sun. As the debris enters Earth’s atmosphere (it can be as small as a grain of sand) it burns up, causing a bright streak of light to appear briefly in our night sky. The debris that causes a meteor can be travelling between 11 to 73 km/second. The Southern delta Aquariids are a very leisurely meteor shower, happy to sit in the middle lane of the interstellar freeway going around 40km/s.

What’s the Moon phase, and how will it affect viewing?

The moon is in its third quarter this year, so the skies are almost at their darkest.

Something interesting

The Southern delta Aquariid’s parent comet is known as 96P/Machholz, discovered by the astronomer Don Machholz at the end of the last century in 1986. Comet 96P/Machholz orbits the sun every 5.3 years, getting eight times closer to the sun than the Earth, and it’s thought that the debris field causing the the Southern Delta Aquarids left the comet’s nucleus about 20,000 years ago.

More reading:

The International Meteor Organization is a great place to discover more about all things meteors. Check out their Meteor Shower Calendar. You might even like to become a member!

You might like to…

Become a citizen scientist and report meteor sightings! If you happen to see a very bright meteor (often referred to as a “fireball”), WA’s Fireballs in the Sky team based at Curtin University would love to know! Report your fireball sighting with the International Meteor Organization.

Where's the Best Place to see a Meteor Shower?

You need a good dark night sky for the best view! Choose an Astrotourism Town destination. Happy meteor hunting!