Spectacular Perseid meteor shower lights up Manchester skies
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Stargazers are in for a treat this week as the Perseids come to a head after weeks of sporadic activity. The meteor shower is active each year from about mid-July until the last week of August, which is when our planet happens to cross the dusty orbit of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. But the real spectacle is just about to unfold with the shower reaching its bountiful peak on the night of Thursday, August 12, according to Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer Edward Bloomer.
During this peak of activity, astronomers expect upwards of 100 meteors to be visible each hour.
The peak will be best seen after 10pm to 11pm, when the Sun has already set below the horizon.
As with all meteor showers, you will want to stay away from bright lights and sources of light pollution.
For the Perseids, you might also want to consider staying up late as the shower will be visible into the predawn hours of Friday.
The shooting stars will appear to enter the night skies from their namesake constellation, Perseus.
Perseid meteor shower: The annual shower peaks this year on the night of Thursday, August 12 (Image: GETTY)
Perseid meteor shower: The shower is active from mid-July until the last week of August (Image: GETTY)
Here in the UK, the constellation will feature fairly high in the northeast skies all night.
According to Dr Bloomer, the meteors will crash into the atmosphere at breakneck speeds and disintegrate before reaching the ground.
When this happens, you are going to see dozens of bright streaks cutting across the sky in the blink of an eye.
The astronomer said: “They’re very odd-looking things, I suppose because suddenly you just get this streak of light.
“A shooting star is a great name for it because it’s not overwhelmingly bright, it’s a little streaky.
“You tell yourself that it’s clearly an object, you can see that there’s movement there and it sort of flares up and it disappears.
“So it seems like a star has sort of come to existence.”
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Meteor showers are triggered by our planet crossing a cosmic debris field left behind an asteroid or comet circling around the Sun.
In this case, it’s the dusty tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 133 years or so.
As the meteors fall through the atmosphere, they are heated up to scorching temperatures by the pressure pushing on the air in front of them.
The hot air then envelopes the tiny space rocks and creates an intense glow that can be seen from the ground.
Meteors typically range in size from about as big as grains of sand to objects as big as your fist.
The latter, in particular, can create spectacular fireballs that erupt before hitting the ground.
Meteor showers 2021: When to see this year’s beautiful showers (Image: EXPRESS)
Perseid meteor shower: The shower is named after the constellation Perseus (Image: GETTY)
During the Perseids’ peak, you might see one shooting star every minute or several appearing at once in between longer intervals.
According to Dr Bloomer, there is no hard and fast rule about how these meteor showers unfold.
But the Perseids are one of the year’s best showers and promise to be an unforgettable experience regardless.
Just be quick, as soon as the meteors enter the night sky, chances are they will disappear in the blink of an eye.
Dr Bloomer said: “It really does seem as though a star has just come into existence, moved, and then disappeared.
“And it all happens in perhaps one second – even shorter times than that.
“So it really is something you notice and then it’s gone.”
The Perseids will remain active until about the end of August though your chances of seeing a shooting star will be greatly diminished.
The next meteor shower visible from the UK will be the Draconid shower in early October.
You should also keep an eye out for the Geminids in mid-December, as it will match the Perseids in intensity.