Perseid meteor shower: Incredible time-lapse shows shower peak
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The Perseids have arrived and that means the Earth is ploughing through the dusty orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. As the large chunk of ice and dust races around the Sun, bits and pieces of the comet are left behind in its wake. Our planet happens to cross this cosmic minefield from about mid-July until the end of August, showering the night skies with bright meteors.
According to Edward Bloomer, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London, the shower will be at its most intense on Thursday night.
During this peak, the Perseids will cast upwards of 100 meteors every single hour.
Dr Bloomer told Express.co.uk: “There are meteor showers where in theory the meteor rate is higher, but the Perseids have got a few things going for them.”
First of all, the shower is well-placed for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere to get a good view.
The meteors will appear to enter the skies from the constellation Perseus, which will be fairly high in the north to northeast skies all night.
The shower also boasts a long period of activity, so you should “have a good chance” to see a meteor here and there on the nights immediately after the peak.
This might be particularly handy if poor weather threatens to spoil the view.
Dr Bloomer said: “It’s easy for us in the UK to certainly have a bit of a look.”
There are, however, some disadvantages stargazers will have to face, especially when living in big cities like London.
We are still in the summer months so the days are long and nights are shorter, which narrows the amount of time you will have available for a spot of meteor hunting.
With that in mind, Dr Bloomer suggests keeping your eyes peeled from about 11pm up until the predawn hours on Friday.
Another thing to keep in mind is that meteor showers favour dark, clear skies – something that is hard to come by in cities like London.
The night skies above the capital tend to be hazy and washed out by light pollution, making it harder to see shooting stars.
Dr Bloomer said: “In general you want to get away from city lights where possible.
“Light pollution is a big problem and, of course, we haven’t had the best weather.”
The unfortunate reality of living in a big city ties in to another key factor when meteor hunting: there are no shortcuts you can take.
The Perseids may arrive tomorrow night in clusters with long breaks in between.
Or they may enter the skies at a rate of one every minute – there is simply no telling how the night will unfold.
Dr Bloomer said: “You can’t just nip outside and have a quick look at the sky.
“What you really want to do is try to find something like a deckchair where you can sit on it and you want to look at the right part of the sky and give yourself a good portion of time.”
You might have to wait 15 minutes or more before you see your first meteor, so be patient.
Showers like these are best seen in dark and wide-open areas like fields and parks.
Stay away from sources of light and be sure to turn off your phone.
Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and pack drinks and snacks to keep you fuelled through the night.
Dr Bloomer said: “There’s no real shortcut to it, you have to have a bit of patience and you have to look continuously at the sky for a good bit of time – for as long as you can really.”
There are a few places in the UK where the skies are dark enough to see the vast multitude of stars above.
These spots are known as Dark Sky areas or Dark Sky Reserves and can be found in the UK’s national parks.
These include Exmoor, the Brecon Beacons, Moore’s Reserve in the South Downs, Snowdonia, North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales.
You can also check out the Dark Sky Discovery map here, to find some good spots for stargazing.
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