Skygazers are in for a treat this weekend when one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year reaches its peak.
The Perseids will light up the night sky around the world, with up to 100 shooting stars visible every hour.
the annual event occurs when Earth passes through debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle during its journeys through the interior Solar system.
Also known as the “Fiery Tears of St. Lawrence,” the display will be visible both north and south of the equator, though those in mid-northern latitudes will enjoy the best views and see the most space rocks streaking across the sky.
It will peak Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday, but the celestial sight should still be quite spectacular through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week.
Astronomers say that the Perseids, like all meteor showers, are best seen with the naked eye in areas with clear skies and little light pollution and smog with a wide view of the sky.
Look for! Skygazers are in for a treat this weekend when one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year reaches its peak. The Perseids will light up the night sky around the world
The Perseids (pictured), which peak in mid-August, are considered the best meteor shower of the year. The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the popular Perseid meteor shower originate from Swift-Tuttle.
WHERE DO METEORS COME FROM?
Meteors come from the remains of comet particles and fragments of broken asteroids.
When comets circle the sun, they leave a trail of dust behind them.
Each year, Earth passes through these debris trails, letting the fragments collide with our atmosphere and disintegrate, creating streaks of fire across the sky.
How can I see the Perseids?
First, check the weather forecast before you head out.
The quality of the display we see during the peak of a meteor shower is determined by two factors: the weather and the moon.
Last year, that last one was a pain, but because our lunar moon will be in its last quarter phase on August 8 and at a new moon on August 16, the 2023 Perseid peak will have no light interference. of the moon.
However, the weather could be an issue depending on where you live in the UK.
Forecasters say much of central and eastern England will enjoy a relatively clear night on Saturday, making it the best weather for meteor spotting.
But for those in Wales, Scotland, the South West and much of Northern England, you may have to wait for the cloud to break to get the best view.
Once you’ve identified a night and a spot where the cloud isn’t too bad, you’ll want to head to a dark spot away from stray light.
Find an area with a clear view of the horizon and away from trees and buildings.
Experts say that binoculars and telescopes are not necessary because they will restrict the size of the sky that will be visible to you.
Forecasters say much of central and eastern England will enjoy a relatively clear night on Saturday, making it the best weather for meteor spotting. But for those in Wales, Scotland, the South West and much of Northern England, you may have to wait for a cloud break.
Known as the “Fiery Tears of St. Lawrence,” the celestial event takes place as Earth breaks through galactic debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle.
However, if you have a telescope, pointing it northeast toward the constellation Perseus will reveal shorter meteors that are easier to align with the radiant, while the longer trails are visible at 90° to the radiant.
The best time to view something in the night sky is when the sky is darkest and when the target is highest in the sky.
In the case of meteor showers, this usually occurs between midnight and the early hours of the morning.
How many shooting stars per hour will there be?
The quality of a meteor shower’s spectacle depends on a number of factors and can vary drastically from year to year, according to NASA, with light pollution having a major impact.
WHAT IS THE SWIFT-TUTTLE COMET?
The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the popular Perseid meteor shower originate from Swift-Tuttle.
This annual meteor shower takes place every August and peaks in the middle of the month.
It was Giovanni Schiaparelli who realized in 1865 that this comet was the origin of the Perseids.
Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 independently by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle.
Swift-Tuttle is a large comet, its nucleus 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide, and it last passed near Earth in 1992.
Bill Cooke of the US space agency said the Perseids have a theoretical maximum of 100 per hour, but in reality many people will see far fewer.
“In the 1980s, meteorite researchers were looking for a way to compare meteor shower rates observed by various individuals and groups around the world,” he said.
The rate that is published each year, in this case 100 per hour, known as the Zenithal Hourly Rate, is based on what the perfect observer would see under perfect skies if they were head-on. That never happens, Cooke said.
Conditions in the area, such as light pollution levels, cloud cover, and the position of the shower’s radiant, all play a role in the actual number visible per hour.
Which countries get the best view?
The event is best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Dr. Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“The Perseid radiant, the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to come, is in Perseus, and high in the northern hemisphere of the sky,” he said.
It is 58 degrees north of the celestial equator, which means it would be about 58 degrees north (the latitude of places like Ullapool in Scotland).
“This also means that the radiant never rises in places south of 32 degrees south, that is, the southernmost parts of Australia and much of Argentina and Chile.
“The result is that the Northern Hemisphere has the best potential view, as the radiant is higher in the sky and visible longer, so in theory you see more meteors.
“As you go south, the number decreases, and south of 32 degrees south, you see essentially none.”
The good news for US sky watchers is that two of the best places to view the Perseids this year will be the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States, according to astronomers.
How fast do meteors travel?
A typical Perseid meteoroid is moving at 133,200 mph (214,365 kph) when it hits Earth’s atmosphere.
At this point it becomes a meteor. If it hit the ground it would be called a meteorite, but almost none of the Perseid fragments do this because they are the size of a grain of sand.
Most of the fragments are visible when they are about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Earth’s surface.
When will the next meteor shower be?
The next big meteor shower will be the Draconids in October, although it tends to be a less active shower than the Perseids.
WHY DO METEORS SOUND?
Meteors are fragments of space rock that enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up as a result of the friction created as they pass, appearing as bright streaks of light in the sky.
In addition to light, this friction also creates sound, with some meteorites creating a “sonic boom” when they break the sound barrier, similar to a fast-moving airplane.
Since meteors can be over a hundred kilometers tall and their sound waves travel much slower than the light they generate, the sonic boom is often not heard until many minutes after the flash is seen.
The burst will only be loud enough to be heard from Earth if the meteor is particularly large, enters the stratosphere below an altitude of about 30 miles (50 km) and explodes as a bolide or fireball.
In addition to the boom, some stargazers claim to have heard hissing and humming at the same time as a meteor is seen.
This is because meteors also emit radio waves of very low frequency, which travel at the speed of light.
These are inaudible, but they can cause physical objects on the Earth’s surface to vibrate and produce a sound, which our ears can interpret as hissing.
Stargazers can sometimes hear a meteorite as it creates a ‘sonic boom’, similar to how a fast-moving airplane does (stock image)