Plan your summer nights in Arizona around two meteor showers: the long-running Delta Aquariids and the fireball-producing Perseids.
TUCSON, AZ — If you\'ve been longing since spring for meteor showers, you\'re about to be rewarded as the rambling Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks over Tucson Thursday.
Whether you\'ll be able to see if, of course, depends on the weather. There\'s a 51 percent chance of rain in Tucson on Thursday.
One way to look at the Delta Aquariids, which produce between 10 and 20 meteors an hour at the peak, is as a dress rehearsal for summer\'s main shooting star event, the prolific Perseid meteor shower.
The Delta Aquariids reliably produce meteors for a couple of days on either side of the peak date and will continue to fire through about Aug. 23, intersecting with the Perseids, often regarded as the best meteor shower of the year — though the Geminid meteor shower in December is special in its own right.
The 2021 Delta Aquariids could be a disappointment, though. Harsh light from a waning gibbous moon will likely wash out a good number of the meteors, which are faint to begin with because the shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, according to Earthsky.org.
To see the Delta Aquariids, it\'s best to head outside between midnight and dawn, regardless of where you live.
That bright moon will wane in the first week of August. The Perseid meteor shower, which runs through Aug. 24, will be well underway by that point, and viewing conditions should be ideal for the Aug. 11-12 peak.
So, is the shooting star a Delta Aquariid or a Perseid?
The alternate answer is that either way, a falling star is a beautiful thing to behold, but if you really want to distinguish a Delta Aquariid from a Perseid meteor, the short answer is that the former appear to fly from the south and the Perseids from the north-northeast.
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com that 2021 should be a stellar year for the Perseids, which are known for bright, persistent trains. If skies are clear, skywatchers will be able to see about 100 shooting stars an hour, Cooke said, though he explained that in more typical conditions, people should be able to see one meteor every minute.
"The Perseids are rich in fireballs, so they\'ll be bright," Cooke said.Cooke, who leads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA\'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said meteor shower watching requires an investment in time and preparation. Some tips:
Also, Cooke told Space.com, ditch the cell phone.
"The bright screen can throw a wrench in your efforts to adjust your night vision," he said. "My suggestion to my friends who want to observe meteors is, leave your phone inside."