SHOOTING stars are not just something to make wish upon – they are an opportunity to witness nature at its most spectacular.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2019 Perseid meteor shower and when and where to watch it in the UK.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower occurs every July and August as the Earth crashes through ancient debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet-tail.
The tiny sand- and pea-sized bits of debris hit our atmosphere at 132,000 miles per hour, reaching temperatures of 3,000 to 10,000 degrees, and streak across the sky, offering up this spectacle.
The name Perseid is from the Perseus constellation, which is the area from which they appear to travel from in the sky.
Many scientists regard this as one of the most exciting astronomical occurrences of the year as around 70 meteors fall per hour.
2016 was an outburst year, which meant Brits could spot as many as 300 shooting stars an hour.
Perseids won this name as they appear to rain out of the constellation Perseus — named after the mythical Greek hero who beheaded gorgon Medusa.
When does the Perseid meteor shower peak?
This year the Perseid meteor shower is active between 17 July and 24 August. During this period, the number of meteors will increase every night until it reaches a peak in mid-August, when it will begin to tail off.
This year the peak falls on the night of the 12th and before dawn on 13 August.
The term peak is used to describe the moment where the meteors are most visible in the sky.
According to NASA, you may be able to see around 15 to 20 meteors an hour during the peak.
Where’s best to watch it and when?
A nearly full moon will reduce the number of meteors we’re able to see this year.
This means the ideal night to catch the Perseids will be just before the peak on August 11.
The moon will set after 3 am, leaving dark skies to illuminate more meteors.
Edward Bloomer, astronomer at RMC, told Country Living: “For viewers in the UK, Perseus is towards the north east as the sun sets, and will be visible until the sun rises again.
“For best viewing, try to get somewhere with a clear horizon, elevated if possible, and as isolated as you can from artificial light sources. “While you’re waiting, try and spot Jupiter and Saturn towards the south as the moon is rising.”
You won’t need a telescope, but you may have to be patient – it takes your eyes half an hour to adjust to the dark.
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What are the best conditions?
To get the best view of the Perseids, make sure you are observing the sky on a cloud-free night.
You will be able to see the meteors with the naked eye on a clear evening.
The celestial event will be most visible in the pre-dawn hours.
For the best experience, visit a remote or quiet area to catch a glimpse of the meteors.
When you’re away from the lights of a big city, it’s easier to spot the shooting stars against the dark sky.
Look up at a height that’s approximately two-thirds of the way into the sky towards any direction to see the shower.