© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

α–Cygnid meteor shower

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Ashburn
The sky at

The α–Cygnid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on 21 July 2016. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from July to August.

Annual meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. As pebble-sized pieces of debris collide with the Earth, they burn up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km, appearing as shooting stars.

By determining the speed and direction at which the meteors impact the Earth, it is possible to work out the path of the stream through the Solar System and identify the body responsible for creating it. To date, however, the parent body responsible for creating the α–Cygnid shower has not been identified.

Observing prospects

The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible is around 5 per hour (ZHR). However, this assumes a perfectly dark sky and that the radiant of the meteor shower is directly overhead. In practice, the number of meteors you are likely to see is lower than this, and can be calculated from the ZHR formula.

From Ashburn (click to change), the radiant of the shower will appear 65° above your north-eastern horizon at midnight. This means you may be able to see around 4 meteors per hour, since the radiant will be high in the sky, maximising the chance of seeing meteors.

The radiant of the α–Cygnid meteor shower is at around right ascension 20h50m, declination 48°N, as shown by the green cross on the planetarium above. All of the meteors will appear to be travelling directly outward from this point, as indicated by the white lines drawn above.

The Moon will be 17 days old at the time of peak activity, and being so close to Full Moon will severely limit the observations that will be possible.

To see the most meteors, the best place to look is not directly at the radiant itself, but at any dark patch of sky which is around 30–40° away from it. It is at a distance of around this distance from the radiant that meteors will show reasonably long trails without being too spread out.

The sky on 21 July 2016
Sunrise
06:00
Sunset
20:30
Twilight ends
22:21
Twilight begins
04:09

17-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

98%

17 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:16 14:20 21:25
Venus 07:00 14:07 21:14
Moon 21:43 02:18 07:34
Mars 15:53 20:40 01:30
Jupiter 10:15 16:35 22:54
Saturn 16:49 21:43 02:40
All times shown in EDT.

Source

The Handbook of the British Astronomical Association.

Image credit

© Jacek Halicki 2016. Perseid meteor seen in 2016 from Poland.

Ashburn

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

39.04°N
77.49°W
EDT

Color scheme