The Perseid Meteor Shower has begun! This annual event lasts from 17th July to 24th August, with activity greatest around the peak on 12th/13thAugust.
This year, the peak coincides with the dark of the Moon so, weather permitting, we should be in for a good display. To whet your appetite, here’s a nice bright meteor we caught on a meteorcam:
So how do you take advantage of this free firework display?
You don’t need any special equipment: meteor observing is best done with your naked eye. You’re going to be looking high in the sky, so some sort of garden recliner is an ideal base, and have a blanket or sleeping bag to keep yourself warm. Use a dim red light to preserve your night vision (nail-varnish or a red sweet wrapper on an ordinary torch works just fine).
The meteors (shooting stars) appear to come from a spot in the constellation of Perseus, but that is the direction you don’t want to look: any you see from that direction will be coming almost head-on towards you, so will have very short trails. The best place to look is near the zenith (the point directly overhead) because it is here that the sky is most transparent and furthest from light pollution on the horizon, so you will be able to see fainter meteors.
“Perseid parties” are a great way to enjoy the show. Enjoy it with a few family and friends, along with flasks of warm drinks and cake or biscuits to keep yourselves both warm and social. If you sit around in a circle, everyone will be looking at a slightly different bit of sky, so you can share and compare.
Of course, the darker your location, the better. If you don’t already have your favourite spot, take advantage of one of our Top Ten Stargazing Locations. They all have somewhere to park, and you ‘ll likely meet other like-minded people there.
Our dark skies make these, and other, beautiful phenomena easier to see. One of the things that can spoil our view of the sky during the darker months is poorly implemented outdoor lighting. You can use our handy flowchart to assess your outdoor lights. If you decide you need to change them for dark-sky compliant fittings, we may be able to help. Get in touch with our Dark Skies Advisor,Steve Tonkin (firstname.lastname@example.org), for details.