Perseid meteor shower: how to see the shooting stars tonight

Aug 12, 2015

The spectacular celestial light of the Perseids will be visible again tonight - if the weather is fine

Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

The Perseid meteor shower is set to reach its climax tonight, lighting up the night sky with shooting stars.

 Caused by debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which has been dubbed the "fireball champion", the Perseid meteor shower is the most spectacular of the year in the northern hemisphere.

"The peak dates to see the Perseid meteor shower are between the 12-13 August, when up to 100 meteors an hour can be seen," says the Met Office. And unlike last year, when a supermoon brightened the night sky and obscured the show, this year's appearance of the annual phenomenon coincides with a new moon.

However, the weather may intervene to prevent productive stargazing. Cloud is expected to settle over southern, central and eastern England, central Wales and northern Scotland for much of the night. At peak viewing time, in the early hours of Thursday morning, the clearest spots are likely to be England north of Manchester, lowland Scotland and the north and western fringes of Wales.

What is a Perseid shower?

The Perseid is the brightest and most consistent meteor shower. It often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour at its peak. It takes place every August, and is caused when small specks of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle's voyage through the solar system. When the Earth passes through this cloud of dust the particles disintegrate into flashes of light. Sometimes, a Perseid fireball will blaze across the sky, producing a particularly spectacular effect.

Where and when can I see them?

The pre-dawn hours are the best time to view Perseid showers. The further from a city and its plentiful urban lights you can get the better. Having found your spot, search for the darkest patch of sky you can find, make yourself comfortable and wait for the celestial show to begin.

Any other tips?

Do not be tempted to use a telescope or binoculars, as either instrument will simply reduce the amount of sky you can view, thus diminishing your chance of seeing the meteors. Planning to Instagram what you see? Resist the temptation to glance at your smartphone while you wait, as the glare from its screen will harm your night vision.

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