Last night, NASA’s All Sky Fireball Network detected 17 Venus-bright meteors. The orbits of the meteoroids, color-coded by velocity, are shown in the diagram below. Earth’s location is marked by a red starburst:
The green orbits correspond to Comet 96P/Machholz, source of the annual delta Aquarid meteor shower. Although this is a minor shower, it is fraught with interest. Some researchers believe that 96P/Machholz came from another star system. Every delta Aquarid that disintegrates in the night sky could be depositing material from across the galaxy into Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Forecasters expect as many as 15 delta Aquarids per hour when the shower peaks on July 28th and 29th. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday when the moon has set and the constellation Aquarius is relatively high in the sky.
Blue orbits correspond mainly to Perseids. The Perseid meteor shower doesn’t peak until August 12-13, but Earth is already in the outskirts of the debris zone of the parent comet, 109P/Swift-Tuttle. By mid-August, rates could exceed 100 meteors per hour. The show, in other words, is just getting started.