Get ready for the light show of the year this week, as the Swift-Tuttle comet showers us with shooting stars – the Perseids. Find out all about this celestial spectacle and where and how to witness it.
What are the Perseids?
This year’s show promises to be the best for years, and can be witnessed throughout the week but will reach it's peak in the early hours of Monday 13 August. Providing the sky is clear enough you could see them on other nights too. At it's peak you may see up to 80 shooting stars an hour; it should to be a magical night when many a wish is made. Without wanting to remove the romance, here are a few scientific facts to explain what causes this phenomenon:
1. The Perseids are debris particles from the comet Swift-Tuttle which passes the earth every August.
2. As they hit the earth’s atmosphere they reach incredible temperatures and vaporise instantly – this is what you are seeing when you see a shooting star.
3. The Perseids are named after the Perseus constellation which is the point they appear to come from in the night sky – this is called the ‘radiant point.’ They are in fact light years away from Perseus and only 60 miles from earth.
4. You'll be able to witness the meteor shower throughout the week, providing the sky is clear enough. The peak time is late in the evening of the 13 August into the early hours of 14 August. After midnight is best, when the moon has dipped below the horizon and the sky is at its darkest.