Perseid meteors to reach peak activity on 12 August

The annual Perseid meteor shower is set to light up the skies over the UK on the night of 12-13 August. The new moon will mean a darker sky and perfect conditions (given clear skies) for one of the summer months’ most breath-taking spectacles.

 

The Perseid meteors seem to come from a single point, the `radiant’, situated in the constellation Perseus, giving the shower its name. This is however just an effect of perspective, as the meteors move parallel to each other, much like drivers see when driving in heavy rain.

 

The radiant will be visible from around 10pm and at this time there will be the highest chance of seeing `Earth grazing meteors’. These are meteors that skim the Earth’s atmosphere and so have long, blazing tails.

 

Observers can expect to see a few tens of meteors per hour, or one every few minutes, once darkness has fallen on 12 August. The number of meteors will peak in the early hours of 13 August, when up to around seventy each hour should be visible.

 

Meteors (also known as ‘shooting stars’) are small particles of dust, some as small as grains of sand, entering our atmosphere at high speed. The friction as they pass through causes the air around the meteor to heat up dramatically, resulting in a characteristic brief bright streak of light. 

 

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a clump of debris in space, as our planet moves along its orbit around the Sun. The dust causing this shower comes from a comet known as Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near Earth in 1992 and orbits the Sun approximately once every 133 years. The meteor shower is actually the Earth moving into the dust and rock left by the comet, which will next come close to Earth in an extremely near miss in 2126.

 

The shower will be visible all over the UK, as long as the skies are clear. Unlike a lot of celestial events, meteor showers are easy to watch and no special equipment is needed, although a reclining chair and a blanket make viewing much more comfortable.

 

Most importantly it will help to be away from artificial light, so observers are advised to avoid built-up areas if possible, and to try to find an unobstructed view of the sky towards the east. The Perseids are active from mid-July to mid-August, but for most of that time only a few meteors per hour are visible. So if clouds do make viewing impossible this weekend, the showers will continue for a few days more with reduced activity.

 


Media contacts

 

Dr Robert Massey

Deputy Executive Director and Press Officer

Royal Astronomical Society

Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3979

Mob: +44 (0)7802 877 699

press@ras.ac.uk

 

Dr Morgan Hollis

Deputy Press Officer

Royal Astronomical Society

Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3977

Mob: +44 (0)7802 877 700

press@ras.ac.uk

 

Dr Helen Klus

Assistant Press Officer

Royal Astronomical Society

Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3976

press@ras.ac.uk

 

Dr Sheila Kanani

Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0)7802 877 698

skanani@ras.ac.uk

 

Ms Lucinda Offer

Education and Outreach Officer

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0)7889 226 543

loffer@ras.ac.uk

 


Image, video and captions

 

A diagram of the 2018 Perseid meteor shower. Meteors appear to originate from a point in the constellation Perseus, which will be visible above the eastern horizon on clear nights in mid-August. Credit: Greg Smye-Rumsby / Astronomy Now

 

 

How to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower (from 2015), featuring Dr Robert Massey of the RAS. Credit: The Weather Network UK

 


Further information

 

2018 International Meteor Organisation calendar

 

 

Interactive visualisation of the Perseid meteoroids and their orbits within the Solar System. Click and drag to explore the Solar System. Credit: Ian Webster & Peter Jenniskens / http://meteorshowers.org

 


Notes for editors

 

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, www.ras.ac.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

 

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Submitted by   on Wed, 08/08/2018 - 11:21