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Light Shows for Late July

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Light Shows for Late July

Summertime is a great time for enjoying the night sky, when the longer days make us want to stay up later, and cooler evening air feels good on sun-warmed skin. And while July may not have any show-stopping meteor showers like August’s Perseids or December’s Geminids, you can still enjoy a few shooting stars in the next couple of weeks.

The evening of July 29 marks the traditional peak of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower. This southern hemisphere shower is visible around the world, with particularly good views in the tropics, from about July 12 to August 23 each year.

The shower usually puts out 15-20 meteors per hour. The radiant — or apparent source — of this shower is in the constellation Aquarius, near the star Delta Aquarii. Look low in the eastern sky.

This year, July 30th and 31st are expected to be the days of peak activity for the infrequent and unpredictable Alpha Capricornid meteor shower, which lasts July 3 to August 15. Unlike most other annual showers, the Alpha Capricornids don’t have a well-defined peak. Maximum activity varies from year to year.

Though not a particularly prolific shower — viewers rarely observe more than five meteors per hour — the Alpha Capricornids can still be quite dramatic, with exceptionally bright, colorful fireballs. Astronomers expect this year to be a favorable for one for the shower.

The shower’s radiant is located in the constellation Capricornus, near Aquila and Aquarius, located in the southern sky.

For the peak of the Delta Aquarids, the Moon will be thinning from a waning gibbous phase to its quarter, or half full phase. In the following days, as the Alpha Capricornid the moon will shrink to a waning crescent. The slightly fuller Moon will make the earlier shower somewhat difficult to see, but shouldn’t interfere significantly with the later shower.

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