TECH

Perseid Meteor Shower To Peak In UK Next Week (PICTURES)

09/08/2013 15:19 BST | Updated 09/10/2013 10:12 BST

As many as 60 shooting stars an hour could be visible in the night sky over the UK next week as an annual stellar show takes place.

Stargazers will get the chance to see the Perseid meteors, one of the regular fixtures of the astronomical calendar, with the naked eye as the Earth makes its regular pass through the debris trail of a comet.

The Royal Astronomical Society said Monday into Tuesday next week is likely to be the best night to see the display - depending on the weather.

A spokesman said: "From the UK the best time to see the Perseids shower is likely to be from late evening on August 12 to the morning of August 13, when as many as 60 meteors an hour may be seen.

"This year prospects for the shower are relatively good, as the Moon is a waxing crescent and from most of the UK will have set by 10.30pm, meaning that its light will not interfere significantly with the view.

The Perseids are grains of dust shed from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up in the atmosphere.

The comet last passed the earth in 1992 and is not due to return until 2125 but its trail collides with the atmosphere during Earth's orbit of the sun.

The shower is active each year from around July 17 to August 24, the RAS said, although for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible.

It advised people to wrap up well and set up a reclining chair outdoors to look skywards in comfort.

It also advised people to find a dark site away from artificial light, with an unobstructed view of the sky.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast, said: "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.

"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."