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Shooting stars show lights up Britain's skies

Star-gazers have caught sight of hundreds of shooting stars in the night skies above the UK as the annual Perseids meteor shower peaked.

Onlookers in the Midlands and the North had the best view of the meteors as cloud cover meant visibility was limited across southern England and Scotland.

The Perseids were keenly anticipated this year as they coincided with a new moon, creating the ideal dark sky conditions, and were also briefly joined overhead by a bright man-made star, the International Space Station (ISS).

Occurring yearly between July 17 and August 24, the meteors reached their peak on Wednesday and Thursday night when over 100 meteors an hour were produced.

Those who stayed up to watch the shower turned to Twitter to share their delight.

Alex Haynes, of Wolverhampton, tweeted: "Truly spectacular view directly up tonight. Clear sky, absolutely amazing. Perseid."

Linda Scannell, of Warwick, said: "Just saw the biggest shooting star I've ever seen."

James Thompson, of Chesterfield, posted: "Best viewing of a meteor shower I think I've seen so far. Wonderful show from the Perseids."

And Courtney Green, who was watching from the West Midlands, tweeted: "Meteor shower was quite cool tonight, saw so many shooting stars! So pretty."

Professor Mark Bailey, director of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, called the Perseids the "best and most reliable meteor showers of the year".

Prof Bailey predicted the Perseids would this year produce an outburst of activity around 7.40pm BST on August 12, while it was still light, but the stars could be seen long after dark.

Members of Birmingham Astronomical Society were among those who had readied themselves to take advantage of the region's clear skies.

The ISS, which orbits earth every 90 minutes, was expected to be visible for four minutes from 10.28pm on Wednesday.

Robin Scagell, vice president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: "The thing about shooting stars is they're a wonderful free spectacle we can all enjoy, assuming clear skies.

"The Perseids are usually fairly bright. Also, they tend to leave a trail, or train, behind them. You can see the train hanging there glowing in the sky for a few seconds - sometimes for several minutes - after the meteor has gone."

Meteors are the result of particles as small as a grain of sand entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and burning up.

They can appear anywhere but seem to emerge from a single point, or "radiant". The Perseid's radiant is in the north-east constellation of Perseus.

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