Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury observatory will be switching on their radio reflection meteor detector this evening to detect all the shooting stars that will appear in the night sky.
Tonight’s clear forecast together with a waxing crescent moon means that the Perseids meteor shower will be at its best tonight and into the early hours of tomorrow morning – promising to make this year’s natural firework display a particularly good one with up to 200 shooting stars an hour!
Meteor showers (or shooting stars) are caused by the Earth passing through the dust trail behind a comet. Small particles in the dust trail enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds. These particles heat the air around them which causes the characteristic streak of light that we can see from Earth – and we see the shooting stars.
The Perseids meteor shower is an annual event creating a natural cosmic firework display with the meteor material coming from the Swift-Tuttle comet which orbits the sun once every 133 years. This comet last passed through our cosmic neighbourhood in 1992 and won’t be back until 2125!
The meteor shower is easy to watch for most people. You don’t need special equipment - just remember to wrap up warmly and find a dark site away from artificial light with an unobstructed view of the sky. Or a reclining chair to look up at the sky is the way to do it in comfort!