How to See the Most Active Daytime Meteor Shower of the Year on Tuesday Morning
The Arietids could be worth waking up early for.
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Dark skies tend to be a nonnegotiable prerequisite for viewing meteor showers, but this week represents the best opportunity to bend that rule and spot shooting stars known for their proximity to the sun in all its fiery brightness.
The Arietids are generally regarded as the strongest daylight meteor shower of the year and they reach a peak of activity Tuesday.
If the Arietids happened in the middle of the deep, dark night, they'd rival or even outdo the most active meteor showers of the year (usually the Quadrantids, Geminids and Leonids), producing up to 200 meteors an hour, or one every 20 seconds on average.
The problem with daytime meteor showers like the Arietids is that when the region of the sky the meteors emanate from -- called its radiant -- is overhead, the sun is also up in the sky.
"So we never have ideal conditions for seeing the Arietids," writes astronomer Don Machholz, who discovered the sungrazing comet 96P/Machholz that left behind the debris that produces the shower, in EarthSky. "The trick is to catch them in the narrow window after the radiant rises (or when it is about to rise), but before the visible breaking of dawn."
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The angle of separation between the sun and the Arietids' radiant is greater than most other daytime showers, which means it's possible to see them flying above the eastern horizon in the hour before the sun rises behind them and washes everything out.
To get a chance to see one of the most unusual skywatching shows of the year, venture outside an hour before sunrise on Tuesday. This will give your eyes about 15 minutes to adjust to the relative dark before most of the visible Arietids start flying.
You'll want to find a spot that's as far away from light pollution as possible. Also be mindful about placing major sources of light between yourself and the eastern horizon if you can.
Grab a comfortable seat that allows for a broad view to the east and just relax and see what you can see before the sun rises or the predawn sky becomes too light to see any more shooting stars or fireballs.
Best of luck. If the weather or circumstances don't cooperate Tuesday morning, it may still be worth trying to catch the Arietids for the next few days, as they're technically active (though with diminishing returns) until July.