Meteor Magnificence

Stargazers of the UK, it’s time for the main meteor shower of the year – the annual Perseids Meteor Shower! 

Of all the meteor showers that take place, the Perseids is the most famous and is widely seen as being the most spectacular too.

The shower takes place over a period of a few weeks in the summer but it will peak later this week.

According to Nasa, during the peak it’s possible to see up to 100 shooting stars an hour!

Perseid meteor shower

What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?

The Perseid Meteor Shower starts in late July. It is made up of hundreds of meteors streaking across the sky in a beautiful natural firework show, which is visible around the world. 

The meteors hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a whopping speed of 134,000 mph, but don’t pose any danger to us on Earth.

The Perseids – pronounced ‘Per-see-ids’ – are actually tiny pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet that can be seen every year when the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris.

The pieces of ice and dust which make up the shower can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pea.

They were left behind when Swift-Tuttle passed close to Earth – the last time being in 1992.

When can I see this year’s Perseids?

The peak nights usually fall in mid-August, with the best night for viewing this year’s Perseids falling on the night of 12 and 13 August.

However, the Royal Maritime Museum in Greenwich say the shower may be visible between 17 July and 24 August.

Prime viewing for the Perseids will be in the middle of the night – between midnight and the early hours of the morning – so not one for those who like a good night’s sleep!

Unfortunately this year the peak falls around the time of the full Moon, so the light conditions will be particularly bad and it might be harder to see some of the fainter meteors. 

Why is it called the Perseid Meteor Shower?

Meteors that form part of the same shower have similar orbits and appear to come from the same place in the sky. This place is called the ‘radiant’.

They are named based on the location of their radiant. 

For the Perseids, the radiant is within the constellation Perseus – and so that’s where it gets its name ‘Perseid’ from.

How can I see the Perseid meteor shower?

The great thing about the Perseids is that unlike some other cosmic events, you don’t need any special technology to watch them. 

The Nasa website says: “Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended!

It’s best to find a wide open space away from tall buildings or trees, and with as little light as possible. 

This is why the full Moon this year could be problematic.

The more of the sky you can see, the better.

It’s important to let your eyes adjust to the dark too, which can take up to 30 minutes. 

Make sure you’re not playing on your phone while you’re out, as the bright light from your screen could affect how your night vision has adjusted to the dark.

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