Meteors are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and in the case of the Perseid shower these come from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was last in the vicinity of the Earth in 1992. To the eye, the meteors appear to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name Perseid.
Although the Perseids peak on the 12th August, the shower can be seen for some time either side of that date and it is worth looking out for them the night before i.e. from the evening of 11th August, as well as on the morning of 13th August. To see the meteor shower, look towards the north-eastern sky from 2200 BST onwards. In clear weather and away from the light pollution of major cities, it should be possible to see a meteor at least every few minutes, with most appearing as brief streaks of light. The waxing gibbous Moon will be in the evening sky but will have set by 0130 BST on the morning of the maximum so its light will not interfere with the view after that time.
Perhaps best of all, and unlike many astronomical phenomena, meteors are best seen with the unaided eye, rather than through a telescope or binoculars and are perfectly safe to watch.
Robert Massey | alfa
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