Perseid meteor shower 2017: How to watch the dazzling display in London and the UK

Hatty Collier
Comets streak across the night sky beneath stars that appear to rotate in a long-exposure photograph taken above Corfe Castle, Dorset on August 12, 2016: Getty Images

The Perseid meteor shower will light up the sky this weekend giving keen stargazers the chance to see a fantastic display of celestial fireworks.

Astronomers said hundreds of shooting stars will streak across the sky in a display that may be visible around the world.

The Perseid meteor shower, shed by comet Swift-Tuttle, occurs every August and is among the brightest of all shooting stars.

It is estimated that this year, as many as two of the streaking flashes of light could be visible every minute given a good location away from built up areas and clear skies.

Milky Way is seen during the annual Perseid meteor shower above Salime Reservoir, near Grandas de Salime, Spain August 11, 2017 (REUTERS)

Where is the best place to watch the Perseid meteor shower?

Experts said the best places to watch are open areas away from street lights.

For Londoners, the best chance of seeing the meteor shower will be from one of the capital’s large parks such as Richmond Park or Hampstead Heath.

When is the best time to look for the Perseid meteor shower in the UK?

The peak time for Perseid watching will be Saturday night and before dawn on Sunday.

The BBC Weather centre said it would peak from 11pm on Saturday and could be seen in most parts of the UK.

But it could be slightly harder to see this year as the moon will be three-quarters full.

Tips from the experts

Robin Scagell, vice president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “We can look forward to a decent display, even though they aren't going to be raining down from the sky.

A long exposure photo shows meteor streaks crossing the night sky over the stone dools in Kuklice, near the eastern city of Kratovo,The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, early August 12, 2017 (EPA)

"The Perseids can be very bright and often quite spectacular. Some meteor showers are slow, but we are moving into the Perseid stream so they are coming at us quite swiftly.

"I think under good conditions you might see one or two a minute, probably more towards Sunday morning rather than Saturday.

"You could see none at all for a few minutes and then two or three. You might be lucky or unlucky; that's the way with meteors."

The meteors, mostly no bigger than a grain of sand, burn up as they hit the atmosphere at 58 kilometres [36 miles] per second to produce a shooting stream of light in the sky.

Seen from the Earth, the Perseids appear to originate from one place in the north-east known as the "radiant" which happens to be near the constellation Perseus.

A tip from Mr Scagell is not to look towards the radiant, but to direct your gaze in the opposite direction.

The meteors will visible for longer when viewed streaking away from their point of origin.

Because the density of the dust cloud varies, the meteors will not be evenly spaced out. At certain times they could be close together and at others seem to disappear.

History

The Perseids were the first meteor shower to be linked to a comet when astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli spotted their association with Swift-Tuttle in 1862.

The comet orbits the sun every 135 years. As the Earth crosses its orbit, it ploughs through some of the debris left by the icy object on previous visits. None of the particles are big enough to avoid destruction and reach the ground.

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