Perseid meteor shower to light up the sky with 70 shooting stars per hour this week

Rob Waugh
Contributor
A meteor streaks past stars in the night sky above Leeberg hill during the Perseid meteor shower in Grossmugl, Austria (Reuters)

Star-gazers could be treated to displays of up 70 shooting stars every hour this week as the Perseid meteor shower comes to a climax, astronomers predict.

The Perseid shower is going to light up British skies on Sunday night – and is one of the best and brightest celestial displays of the year.

With a new moon providing a dark backdrop, it should be even more visible this year.

Sky-watchers will be able to spot shooting stars as soon as darkness falls on August 12, and the display will peak in the early hours of August 13.

Dr Robert Massey, from the Royal Astronomical Society, said: ‘The shower will be visible all over the UK, as long as the skies are clear.

‘Unlike a lot of celestial events, meteor showers are easy to watch and no special equipment is needed, although a reclining chair and a blanket make viewing much more comfortable.’

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most popular among stargazers

Sky watchers should look towards the north-east and the constellation of Perseus, where the meteors appear to originate.

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The Perseids are actually tiny pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet that can be seen every year when the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris.

They’re bits of ice and dust, which can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pea.

The fragments were left behind when Swift-Tuttle passed close to Earth in 1992.

The meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name Perseid.