Radio Sandwell Miscellanea

Perseids meteor shower to shimmer in clear skies

2013-08-13 00:28:58

The Perseids meteor shower in the Republic of Macedonia, August 2011

Meteor watchers are in luck for tonight's Perseids shower, with clear skies over much of the UK.

Up to 60 shooting stars an hour should be visible between late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning.

Sky News weather presenter Sarah Pennock said showers will fade during the night giving many people a chance to see the astronomical spectacle.

"This is good news for observing the meteor shower," she said.

"Particularly for those in eastern coastal counties who will have the lengthiest clear spells.

"You might need a few layers or a blanket while you wait and watch, with much of rural Britain down to single figures overnight."

However, people in Northern Ireland will have "little chance" to spot the meteors with cloud forecast to increase through the night.

The natural phenomenon - the result of the cosmic pollution created by the comet Swift-Tuttle which last passed near the Earth in 1992 - is expected to be visible to the unaided eye.

"Comet Swift-Tuttle won't be visiting our neck of the woods again until the year 2125, but every year we get this beautiful reminder as the Earth ploughs through the debris it leaves in its orbit" said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast.

"Every meteor is a speck of comet dust vaporising as it enters our atmosphere at 36 miles per second. What a glorious way to go."

Shooting stars are the result of small particles entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed.

These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground.

They mostly appear as fleeting flashes lasting less than a second, but the brightest ones leave behind trails of vaporised gases and glowing air molecules that may take a few seconds to fade.

The Perseids meteor shower is active each year from around mid-July to late-August, but for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible.

Brecon Beacons in south Wales has also been tipped as one of the best places to watch the meteor shower.

Those wishing to see the spectacle in the London area and the south east are advised to head for the North Downs or the Chilterns.


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