A highlight of most meteorite hunters and skywatchers each year, the Perseid meteor shower displays an increasing number of visible and desired rocks for a number of weeks during the summer. The annual shower will begin tonight – read on to find out how best to see the space phenomenon.
Characterized by a small, rocky or metallic body, meteorites are much smaller than asteroids and range in size from tiny grains to bodies one meter wide.
However, the Perseid meteor shower is known for being colorful and displaying equally bright trails of light, though it is particularly special, counting as high as 100 boulders per hour, although you may usually see around 50.
What is a Perseid meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for more than 2,000 years and occurs when Earth passes through the orbit of Comet Swift Tuttle.
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When comets orbit near the sun, they heat up, causing parts of them to separate.
The Royal Museum of Greenwich (RMG) said that if debris (meteorites) fell in Earth’s path around the sun, it could infiltrate our atmosphere at speeds of seven to 45 miles per second.
However, the exact speed at which a meteorite enters the atmosphere will depend on the combined speed of Earth and the debris itself.
RMG said: “The average velocity of a Perseid meteor is 36 miles per second, and the air in front of the meteor is crushed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius.
And she continued, “Smaller meteorites evaporate and leave behind a bright trail of light,” while “larger meteorites can explode in the form of fireballs.”
If cloudy and rainy conditions are expected where you are, you might travel to a new location where the weather is scheduled to be clearer, or go out on a different day. The showers are set to continue for the next few weeks after all.
Another tip is to try to reduce the amount of light pollution in your field of vision.
Head to the countryside, a park, or any other vast expanse for a better view. The Royal Museums Greenwich suggests doing something as simple as turning your back to street lamps to watch if you are unable to travel.
RMG said: “Give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adapt to the darkness so you can catch more faint meteors – that means you shouldn’t be looking at your phone!
“Meteorites can appear in any part of the sky, so the more you see the sky, the better.”
Try to find an area away from trees and buildings and a clearer view of the horizon – but don’t worry about bringing binoculars and telescopes. This will limit the amount of sky you will be able to see.
Get out when the skies are at their darkest and for meteor shots in particular, any time between midnight and the early hours of the morning is the best time to do so.
However, with Perseid, it can also be visible in the early evening, just as the sun sets due to its shining above the horizon.