How and where to see the Piscis Austrinids meteor shower in Australia tonight

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Australia's night sky will be illuminated by a trio of meteor showers starting from tonight.

The Piscis Austrinids, the Southern Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids showers all come from the same area of the night sky, and coincide with the dark night sky of a new moon, which should provide ideal viewing conditions.

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Meteor showers are among the most reliable and enjoyable events for amateur astronomers, because even when conditions aren’t ideal, there’s a lot to see, according to Macquarie University Professor Orsola De Marco.

A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate, or originate, from one point in the night sky called the Radiant, with the actual meteor fragments made extremely hot by the resistance (or drag) they experience as they continue to fall before burning up in Earth's atmosphere. Showers can produce around 35 meteors per hour at their peak.

The Piscis Austrinids meteor shower is expected to peak first, starting on 28 July, while the Southern Delta Aquariids and the Alpha Capricornids will peak on 30 July. The peak period lasts about 48 hours.

The Southern Delta Aquariids will have the most meteors, with up to 20 an hour at the peak, according to Prof De Marco, with the Piscis Austrinids and the Alpha Capricornids displaying a relatively low shower rate, of five and four meteors an hour respectively, Prof De Marco said.

When and where is the best time to look?

While the meteor showers are visible from everywhere on Earth, there will be better viewing from the southern hemisphere.

Piscis Austrinids: peaks 28 July

The Piscis Austrinids is named after the Piscis Austrinus constellation, otherwise known as ‘The Southern fish’. According to the Guardian, If you’re on the east coast of Australia, the Piscis Austrinids will rise around 8pm to the south-east, travelling closer to due east by 11pm.

“Look towards the east, about 45 degrees up – about halfway between the horizon and above your head,” Prof De Marco said.

Southern Delta Aquariids: peaks 30 July

The Southern Delta Aquariids will be visible from around 11pm, to the east-northeast and 45 degrees upwards from the horizon. This shower has the quickest meteors of the three peaking this week.

Alpha Capricornids: peaks 30 July

The Alpha Capricornids can produce very bright ‘fireball’ meteors that appear to fall slowly across the sky. According to De Marco, at about 11pm on 30 July, the shower will be visible to the north-northeast, about 65 degrees up from the horizon.

Look to the North in August

In addition, the peak of the shower season for Sydney viewers will be the Perseid shower – where there may be up to a hundred shooting stars in an hour – set to occur around 3am on August 13.

Unfortunately Perseid coincides with a full moon during 2022, making meteors less visible. In Australia, the best viewing will be towards the north at 5am on 13 August.

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