The Perseid Meteor Shower

The year’s most spectacular meteor shower The Perseid meteor shower happens this weekend, Over the course of the next four days, Earth will plough through the debris stream left by a giant comet that has been circling the sun since the birth of the solar system. Each tiny cometary fragment that hits our atmosphere is usually no larger than a speck of dust. Yet it burns up with an incandescent display that we call a shooting star. If you want to get technical about it: a meteor.

This year, the Perseids will be visible from the northern hemisphere between 11 and 14 August.The Perseid meteor shower is sparked every August when the Earth passes through a stream of space debris left by the 27-kilometre-wide comet Swift-Tuttle and Every Perseid was once in the tail of Swift-Tuttle, which spends most of its time in the outer solar system, reaching beyond the orbit of Pluto. Then, every 133 years, it dives past the sun, replenishing the supply of Perseids.

If the skies are clear this weekend, the prime times to watch are generally between midnight and 3am. This year the night of the 12th going into the 13th is expected to be the best. But meteor showers are extremely variable and if you have the chance(and can stay awake), watch in the early hours of any morning between the 11th and 14th.

The direction in which to look is the east. If you know your constellations, find Perseus then look at its surroundings. Take a deck chair, blankets and a hot thermos to keep you company. Even in August, you will need the last two. Then wait. The expected rate of meteors this year is a few dozen per hour.

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