Shower of shooting stars
This week star gazers are expected to get a stellar view of this year's Perseid Meteor Shower.
The maximum is due at 10pm on Thursday, August 12, and with no moonlight to interfere, we might see up to 80 meteors per hour, or an average of more than one per minute, if the sky is very dark and clear that evening.
Meteors are just tiny particles of dust in space, mainly from comets, and at this time each year the Earth sweeps through a swarm of these particles from Comet Swift-Tuttle. These particles rush into our atmosphere at speeds of about 60 miles/second, and are burned away in the flash of light that we see as a meteor or ‘shooting star'.
This shower is called the Perseids because they appear to come from the constellation of Perseus, which is rising in the NE part of the sky when it gets dark each evening.
Some Perseids can be seen from early August up to about August 17, but most will be seen from August 11 to 13, and particularly on the night of 12/13, nearest the peak.
Although they appear to come from the direction of Perseus, they can actually be seen in any part of the sky.
They should be easily visible with the naked eye, but only if the sky is dark enough. For the best view, get well away from the light pollution of our roads, towns and cities: the darker the sky, the more you will see.
And allow time for your eyes to dark-adapt — you won't see any for a while if you just go out from a brightly lit room. Patience is the key, and of course favourable weather.