Shooting stars to light up summer skies

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Tonight (Monday 12th) and into the tomorrow morning there will be a chance to see the annual maximum of the Perseids meteor shower.

This year prospects for watching this natural firework display are particularly good.

Meteors (popularly known as ‘shooting stars’) are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground.

For the Perseids the material comes from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992. This shower of meteors appears to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name.

The shower is active each year from around 17th July to 24th August, although for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible. From the UK the best time to see the Perseids shower is likely to be from late evening on 12th August to the morning of 13th August, when as many as 60 meteors an hour may be seen.

If you plan to be out stargazing in the Western Isles tonight send in you photos to jenny.kane@stornowaygazette.co.uk. Let us know where you were and what you managed to see.

Pictured above is a Perseid seen in August 2010 above the four enclosures of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal, Chile. Credit: ESO / S. Guisard.