When to see one the best meteor showers in Sussex tonight (Aug 12/13)

One of the best meteor showers is due to reach its peak tonight (Aug 12/13)

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 7:22 pm

The Perseid meteor shower is due to peak overnight between midnight on Thursday and around 5.30am on Friday.

The Royal Greenwich Museum has described the shower as one of the best of the year because if produces bright meteors and is one of the most active.

It is active between 16 July and 23 August, with the number of meteors increasing every night until it reaches a peak in mid-August, after which it will tail off.

A meteor shower captured on camera - Picture by Peter Cripps

It is called the Perseids because the meteors seem to originate from the constellation of Perseus. Astronomers call this point the meteor shower’s radiant.

And Sussex is a good place to witness the spectacle with plenty of open space and locations for dark skies.

Dhara Patel, senior manager, astronomy education at the Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG), said: "Sussex has a lot more dark skies than in London.

"A beach or camp site or a local park away from street lights is a good location.

"At the peak there will be 50 to 60 per hour which is one a minute.

"We have got really good viewing conditions, the moonlight is not so bright. We have a really good chance of seeing something.

"If you can, get to higher ground and get away from buildings and trees."

The RMG website states: 'The radiant of the Perseids is actually always above the horizon as seen from the UK, which means that observers in the UK should be able to see some meteors as soon as the Sun sets. Therefore, it is worth looking up in the early evening.

'It is always favourable to try and spot meteors when the Moon is below the horizon or when it is in its crescent phase, because otherwise it will act as a natural light pollution and will prevent the fainter meteors from being visible.

'It is simply one of the best meteor showers of the year because it produces bright meteors and is one of the most active. The Geminids also has a high hourly rate; however, they occur in December when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter. The Perseids take place over the school summer holidays in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, which allows family groups to witness the shower together.

'There is also a high chance of seeing fireballs, which are very bright meteors, as well as meteors with long trains during the Perseid meteor shower.

'As comets get close to the Sun, they heat up and pieces break off. If the debris ends up in the Earth’s path around the Sun, it can slam into our atmosphere at speeds of between 7 – 45 miles per second. The actual speed that a meteor enters our atmosphere travels at depends on the combined speed of the Earth and the debris itself.

'The average speed for a Perseid meteor is 36 miles per second. The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail of light. Larger meteors can explode as fireballs.

'Giovanni Schiaparelli was the first to realise the connection between meteor showers and comets. Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle had discovered a new comet (which now bears their names) two years before Schiaparelli announced that the orbit of this comet coincides with the path that the source material for the Perseids take.'