'One of the best meteor showers of the year' to peak tonight

3 months ago 31
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One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak tonight, offering stargazers in the northern hemisphere a chance to see dozens of very fast and bright meteors.

If you find yourself struggling to sleep tonight, seek comfort in the fact you could catch a glimpse of the stunning Perseid shower, especially between about 2am and dawn.

If skies are clear it will be visible across much of the country from around midnight until 5.30am tomorrow, and although the moon rises around midnight too - which will affect the peak viewing window - there will be still be nearly one meteor every two minutes during that peak.

The 2013 Perseid shower seen over the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank at the University of Manchester

Image: The meteor shower is among the best of the year

Even though each meteor is mostly no bigger than a grain of sand, they still produce an eye-catching shooting stream of light in the sky as they burn up upon hitting the atmosphere at about 36mph.

They are produced each year when the Earth ploughs through dusty debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, and can reach scorching temperatures of between 1,648C (2,998.4F) and 5,537C (9,998.6F).

The Perseid meteor show occurs every August in the UK.

Image: The meteor shower occurs every August in the UK

Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) has compiled a guide for those hoping to take part in some stargazing, with the timing of the shower perfect for youngsters who may be allowed to stay up late as it is during their summer break.

Some top tips include:

Keep your eyes off your phone - giving your eyes time to adjust to the dark will help you catch a glimpse of some of the fainter meteors.Do not rely on binoculars - they will restrict the size of the sky that will be visible to you, as will telescopes.

RMG describes the Perseid shower - named because the meteors appear to dart out of the Perseus constellation, after the hero of Greek myths - as "simply one of the best meteor showers of the year".

According to NASA, the Perseids are among the most plentiful meteor showers that humans can observe, with 50-100 meteors seen per hour.

Perseid meteors seen crossing the night sky above Kreva village in Belarus on Sunday night

Image: The meteors appear to originate from the constellation Perseus

They are also known for their fireballs - larger explosions of light and colour that can persist longer than an average meteor streak.

NASA explains: "This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles of cometary material."

They are also brighter than even the brightest stars visible in the northern hemisphere - and will provide an amazing show if you are up to see them.

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