The Perseid meteor shower is set to reach its peak tonight and into tomorrow morning and is all set to be truly spectacular.
Around 200 meteors and hour will light up the skies above us and astronomers say the best time to view them will be from 10pm tonight, Thursday August 11, into Friday morning and over the weekend.
Every year the Perseid meteor shower thrills stargazers - and this year it promises to be even more spectacular than ever, with twice as many meteors expected.
Astronomer John Mason from the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester explains when the best time will be to see it and where, and what exactly it is we will be looking at.
When and where should stargazers try to watch it?
“The best time to view it will be between 10pm tonight and 4am tomorrow morning,” said Dr Mason.
“You should be able to see shooting stars in the sky from about 10.30pm, but for the best viewing, people really need to get outside after midnight.
“The best viewing is always in the early morning hours when visibility is at its best.
“The key thing is having a dark, clear sky, so watching it from the middle of Chichester or Bognor is not really ideal, people should really get out in the countryside away from the city lights.”
What exactly is it we’ll be looking at?
Dr Mason explained: “Every year in August, the Earth passes through the stream of dusty debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the annual Perseid meteor shower, and that’s what people will be able to see.
“The shower is among the most reliable of the year, producing an abundance of swift, bright meteors visible over a two-week period of warm summer nights.
Why so good this year?
“The thing about this year is it looks to be a double peak, so twice as many meteors could be visible in the sky,” Dr Mason said.
“So this year’s Perseid display could well be even better than usual.
“It’s peak is set to be tonight and tomorrow morning and viewers should be able to see a good rate of three or four meteors a minute, between 50-70 an hour, under clear, dark skies with the radiant high in the sky.”
How should I view it?
You don’t need a telescope, viewing the shower with the naked eye is the best way to see it, but people have been told to wrap up warm.
Dr Mason said: Meteor viewing can be carried out by individuals, or by groups of observers.
“But warm clothes are essential, it can get quite chilly, even on August nights.”
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