Observing the Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower in 2011

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These are examples of Delta Aquariid activity seen while facing south near 0300 local daylight time on July 30.

The Delta Aquariids (SDA’s) are the strongest southern shower active during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. The Earth encounters these particles from July 21 through August 23 with a broad maximum occurring near July 30. Zenith hourly rates (ZHR’s) average 20 near maximum activity. During July and August this radiant is well placed as it rises near 2200 local daylight time and culminates at 0300 LDT. This shower is visible over most of the Earth but those observers located in the southern tropical areas are best suited as the radiant passes through their zenith. Observers further south may have a lesser zenith angle but they also enjoy a longer night which allows longer observation of this activity.

On July 30, the radiant is located at 22:42 (340) -16. The area of the sky is located in southern Aquarius, three degrees west of the 3rd magnitude star Delta Aquarii. An easier signpost may be the bright first magnitude star Fomalhaut (Alpha Pisces Austrinis), which lies fifteen degrees to the southeast of the SDA radiant. These meteors strike the Earth’s atmosphere with a velocity of 42 kilometers per second. Visually these meteors would appear to possess a medium speed for those shower members seen far from the radiant and high in the sky. Those seen close to the radiant or close to the horizon would appear to move slower. Most members of this shower are faint so rates seen from urban locations would most likely be unimpressive. Only from darker rural locations can this shower really be appreciated.

To view this shower it is advised that you limit your session to the morning hours when the radiant has achieved sufficient altitude. The best rates will occur near 0300 LDT when the radiant lies highest in the sky. You should face toward the southern half of the sky so that you may be able to better distinguish the SDA’s from the other weaker radiants active in this same general portion of the sky. Facing this direction will also allow you to experience the swift Perseids shooting into your field of view from behind. Although not as numerous as the SDA’s in July, the Perseids will provide some memorable bright meteors as you patiently wait for the fainter Aquariids to appear. In late July the moon will be a thin crescent phase and will not interfere with viewing the SDA’s.

While the Perseids provide more activity, their rates will be tempered by a bright moon in August. The Southern Delta Aquariids will provide a good show in impressive dark skies so make it a point to try to view this activity. If you are unable to view on the morning of the 30th, rates will still be good for a few nights before and after this date. Be sure to share your observations with the American Meteor Society!



  • Steve Matsumura 12 years ago

    Do you have any suggestion of the location where I can see this meteor shower near Torrance, CA?

    Reply to Steve
  • amsadmin 12 years ago

    Steve, you need to head to darker skies to see the activity at it’s best. I would suggest heading north toward the Angeles National Forest. Perhaps a local astronomy club has a dark observation site in that area? I have observed from the Los Padres National Forest, which is a bit further away to your northwest. The skies were great there!

    I hope this helps!

    Robert Lunsford
    American Meteor Society

    Reply to amsadmin
    • Steve Matsumura 12 years ago

      Dear Robert,
      Thank you for your suggestion. I will head north.
      Best regards,
      Steve Matsumura

      Reply to Steve
  • Corey Beckman 12 years ago

    I am in oklahoma, and I am wondering where to look for tonight and at what time?

    Reply to Corey
    • amsadmin 12 years ago

      Cory and All,

      The best time and direction is the same for everyone no matter your location. Look toward the south near 3am.

      Robert Lunsford

      Reply to amsadmin
  • Jack Belk 12 years ago

    The early mornings of July 30 and 31 were great in S. Idaho for this shower. I saw up to eight an hour with clear, dark skies except of heat lightning off to the SW which enhanced the experience. Thank you far a great website.
    I strongly recommend watching meteor showers from a hot springs, especially in the winter time.

    Reply to Jack
  • Jane 12 years ago

    Friday July 29 around 11p.m. my husband and I observed the biggest and brightest meteor that we can ever recall. Almost directly overhead. We live 40 miles north of Houston and have a lot of airport traffic so at first thought it was a low flying airplane. Also saw one around 9p.m. the next night, not as bright and closer to the horizon in the northeast for us.

    Reply to Jane

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