What is the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower?
- As the comet 169P/NEAT orbits the sun, it leaves a trail of debris which the Earth crashes into every April. When the debris burns up in our atmosphere, it produces the meteor shower that we call the Alpha Capricornids.
- At its peak, the Alpha Capricornids produce only 5 meteors per hour. However, they’re usually very bright and they can often become a fireball.
When is the best time to see the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower in 2023?
- The best time to see the Alpha Capricornids in 2023 is early on Sunday 30th July (before dawn).
- Unfortunately, there’s also a full moon this year at around the same time, so viewing conditions will be poor. Dark, clear skies are always best for seeing meteors.
- The Alpha Capricornids will start appearing from 3rd July and continue until 15th August. The number of meteors is highest in the early hours of Sunday 30th July.
How can I see the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower from the UK?
- You don’t need any special equipment to see the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower from the UK but a bit of preparation is a good idea.
- First, check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be cloudy, try the days before the peak viewing period.
- Next, find a dark (but safe!) place with a clear view away from buildings, trees, and street lights. The Alpha Capricornids can appear in any part of the sky, so the more you can see the better.
- Also, make sure you turn off all torches and phones for 15 minutes so that your eyes can adjust to the darkness. If you need to use a torch, then consider buying one with a red filter.
- Finally, make sure that you’re warm and comfortable. The Alpha Capricornid shower produces relatively few meteors, so a reclining chair and refreshing beverages are an excellent idea.
If you are planning to take pictures of meteors, Mary McIntyre has some very useful tips for you on how to take better meteor pictures.
Another great way to watch the Lyrids is to buy or build yourself a meteor camera. You’ll be able to create amazing time lapse videos like the one below and join the UK network of 200+ meteor cameras. You don’t need any previous experience and it’s a great project to do with your kids or students!
Fun facts about the Alpha Capricornid meteor shower
- They’re called the Alpha Capricornids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Capricorn. However, they’re actually caused by the Earth crashing into debris left behind by the comet 169P/NEAT.
- Astronomers estimate that the meteor shower was created about 3,500 to 5,000 years ago, when half of the comet disintegrated into dust.
- Most of this dust will not be in Earth’s path until the 24th century, when the Alpha Capricornids are expected to become an annual meteor shower stronger than any current meteor shower.