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The Spectacular Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower

The Spectacular Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower

The Alpha Capricornid meteor shower treats stargazers to a dazzling display of celestial fireworks every year in late July and early August. This moderately strong shower produces bright, colorful meteors that streak across the summer night sky.

The Spectacular Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower

What Is The Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower?

The Alpha Capricornids are a meteor shower that radiates from the constellation Capricornus. Observers in the Southern Hemisphere can see them, while they are also visible at far northern latitudes. The shower runs annually from July 3 to August 15, and peaks around July 30-31.

The Alpha Capricornids are considered a minor meteor shower, with peak rates of around 5 meteors per hour. However, it is known for producing occasional bright fireballs, also called bolides. These slow-moving fireballs shine with a characteristic golden-yellow tint and leave long-lasting trails. Some observers have compared the Alpha Capricornid fireballs to those of the August Perseids.

Where Do The Meteors Come From?

The Alpha Capricornid meteors originate from comet 169P/NEAT. Comet 169P/NEAT is responsible for producing several other weak meteor showers including the Daytime Arietids in June.

About 500 years ago, comet 169P/NEAT shed debris as it approached perihelion, or its closest point to the Sun. This debris dispersed into a dust trail that crosses Earth’s orbit each July and August, causing the annual Alpha Capricornid meteor shower.

When debris from a comet enters Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up 50 to 75 miles above the surface. This burning debris streaks rapidly across the sky, creating the effect of “shooting stars”.

How To See The Alpha Capricornids?

The Alpha Capricornids are best viewed during the peak, which occurs around July 30th into the morning hours of July 31st. For optimal viewing, find an open location away from city lights with a clear, unobstructed view of the sky.

Look towards the constellation Capricornus, from which the meteors will appear to radiate. The constellation rises above the southeastern horizon after midnight in late July. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky so be sure to scan the entire sky for the brightest and longest meteors.

Allow your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to adapt to the dark. Then relax, lie back, and watch for streaks of light. A reclining lawn chair makes an excellent viewing spot. Bring a blanket to stay warm and comfortable.

The Alpha Capricornid meteors are visible to the naked eye so no special equipment is needed. However, binoculars will allow you to spot more meteors. You can also photograph the meteors using a DSLR camera on a tripod with exposures of 5 to 30 seconds.

When Is The Best Time To See The Alpha Capricornids?

The ideal time to observe the Alpha Capricornids is during the peak on the night of July 30 and the early morning hours of July 31. Meteor rates will be highest as Earth passes through the thickest part of the debris stream.

Try to watch in the pre-dawn hours, as Capricornus climbs higher in the southeastern sky. This shower is best seen between midnight and dawn when the radiant is highest above the horizon.

Moon phases also play a role. Aim for a moonless night to maximize your meteor viewing when the sky is at its darkest. In 2023, the peak coincides with a waning crescent moon which sets around midnight, providing ideal dark sky conditions.

Alpha Capricornid Meteor Shower Facts

Some key facts about this annual summer meteor shower:

• Parent Body: Comet 169P/NEAT

• Peak Date: July 30-31

• Peak Rate: Around 5 meteors/hour

• Radiant: Constellation Capricornus

• Velocity: 15 miles/second

• Colors: Fiery golden-yellow

• Occasional Fireballs: Yes

The Alpha Capricornids are a celestial highlight of summer and a treat for meteor enthusiasts. Bundle up, grab a cozy spot outdoors, and enjoy the show as these shooting stars grace the night sky.

FAQs

Q. What causes the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower?

A. The Alpha Capricornids originate from debris left behind by comet 169P/NEAT as it passed near the Sun around 500 years ago. This debris enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, burning up and creating the meteors we observe.

Q. When will the next Alpha Capricornid meteor shower peak occur?

A. The shower peaks annually around July 30-31st. In 2023, peak activity is expected on the night of July 30th into the early morning hours of July 31st.

Q. What’s the best way to view the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower?

A. Find a dark location away from light pollution with a wide open view of the sky. Give your eyes enough time to adapt to the darkness. Face southeast and look for meteors radiating near the constellation Capricornus.

Q. What will the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower look like?

A. This shower produces relatively few meteors, about 5 per hour at peak. But it is known for occasional bright, golden-yellow fireballs which leave persistent trails across the sky.

Q. Are any special tools or equipment needed to view this meteor shower?

A. No, just your eyes! You can bring binoculars for better viewing or a camera on a tripod to try photographing the meteors and their trails.

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